Sunday, March 30, 2014

But God, They Don't...

Honor Thy Father and Mother. Exodus 20:12

Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6

Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right...that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

As a child immersed in the church culture since the womb (literally, my mom was a pianist, so I was there 3 times a week), it has been beaten into me to adhere to the 10 commandments. And of course, as a child, the primary one that is preached to little tikes in traditional church settings is "Honor thy Father and Mother. - Exodus 20:12." Yes, the other 9 matter, but parents take great advantage of those moments when outside forces reinforce their authority. I know, as I am now a parent myself.

Let's take this into a perspective that is apart from the traditional setting though. What exactly does the word honor mean? According to Merriam Webster, it means respect that is given to one who is admired. Well, that seems simple enough, right? As a parent, it is implied that because I bore you in my womb and attempted to provide you nourishment for a certain amount of years, and provided shelter and transportation on occasion, than I am to be respected and held in admiration. I am entitled to this glorified place in your life. I am to be feared. I am to be idolized. I am to be duplicated. I am to be the primary authority in all things considered. I am the final say. I brought you in this world and I can take you out - Sir Cosby.

Now how's that make you feel? I would hope that you read that with a slight discomfort and an awareness of how selfish and arrogant that could be perceived. Yet, I see it every day. You see, the Bible is God's word, living and breathing through all who are able to read it and understand it. So, I was raised in an environment where I was to respect the authority of my parents and they had the final say on almost everything until I was no longer on their payroll. However, I was also raised observing the environment of others who were under different authorities. I watched friends and classmates receive abuse from their parents - verbal, mental, and physical. I watched friends grapple with missing parents as they were abandoned at some point along the way. I watched friends who had absentee parents simply because the parent worked another shift and was unable to be available for parenting. So I watched this verse challenge people and I struggled with how to explain it to them. It is easier to explain the grace of God's salvation than to explain the "why's" of life's struggles.

Honor your parents. How do you do that when you do not see them with admiration? Your mom is an alcoholic. Your dad cheats on your mom and everyone knows it. Your mom still acts like she is 17 and tries to be your friend and not your parent. Your dad left 10 years ago and you don't even know where he is. And on and on and on. For unfortunately, we live in a world plagued with sin and selfishness. So as it was in the Bible, it is today. Children suffer for the decisions of their parents. I got lucky. My parents were assertive and involved in my life with great authority, but I respected them and was aware that I was blessed. Sometimes I acted like a brat - ok, probably a lot - but at the end of the day, I knew there were other situations in which I could be raised that would make this simple command extremely difficult to adhere.

Honor is also defined as a symbol of distinction. Your parent is your parent. Period. AS they make decisions that cause you to be unhappy or distraught, they are still your parent. You can respect their place as a symbol of distinction in your world as the person that God placed in your life to bear that title. You can also respect them as the person that God placed in your life to distinctly direct you to an awareness of Him as your Heavenly Father who will never forsake you. You do not have to dedicate your life to the idolizing, glorifying, and duplicating of your parent. Your life is to be spent idolizing, glorifying, and duplicating God.

But God, they don't care for me, help me, take care of me, protect me, love me! He knows. He longs for them to come back to Him or to find Him at all. He longs for them to raise you in a place of great reverence of Him. Until He is able to get through to them, He will continue to bring you into a place where you understand love, grace, mercy, peace, and yes, even forgiveness. He does not command us to place them on a pedestal. He does not command us to idolize them. He does not command us to duplicate them. He does not command us to bail them out of every problem. He does not command us to save them. We cannot save anyone. Only God can. He does command us to honor them. They are your parent. Period. They are also a child of God. Period. Your acknowledgement of that distinction in your life is the beginning of a restoration. It is not complete and utter healing, but a beginning. When honor is given to someone who is undeserving, it is possible that humility can follow. Be the crown of the aged and the pride of your parents. Make them proud of whom you have become, despite the circumstances.

You must heal and allow God to wash over you His unending love. Through healing, He will help you find peace. I am a firm believer that you are of no use to the rest of society until you are restored and in a healthy place. So honor can also mean removing yourself from situations where you do not feel you are strong enough to endure the challenge.

Next post will be the flipside...children who do not honor...

While You Wait

Make sure to check out previous posts that you may or may not have read. My husband and I have had quite an interesting life thus far in only 13 years of marriage and around 17 years of being friends. Check out our adventures in 2006 and 2008. God is good...all the time.

Be blessed.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stirring Up a Pot

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12

In continuation with yesterday's concerns, it is important that we also take the viewpoint of those who grasp the enormity of God's grace and are aware that we all are but sinners saved by that grace ourselves. So the fine line between judgment and correction is tight and delicate. When you are aware that your brother in Christ is not operating in a life that is pleasing to the Lord, it is ON YOU to assist them in seeing how their choices or decisions are not God-honoring. However, it is NOT ON YOU to judge them and to offer punishment to them. Hmmmmm. What?

It's easy with children, right? They are smaller and younger and easier to persuade. It is far less complicated to correct a child as they are still in a place of submission or of fearful respect. When you inform them that a decision they are making is going to harm them or others AND explain how or why that is truth, they tend to begin striving to correct that action. They are still in a place of awareness that pleasing a superior equals a greater reward and less painful existence.

Ah, and then they (we) grow up. The place of pleasing a superior shifts. Our superiors alter. Our desire to strive for correct behavior becomes skewed. For the past several decades, we have watched the embrace of individualism and the push for personal pleasure as opposed to pleasing others. And to an extent, that is not bad. You should be happy. You should work a job that you enjoy. You should marry someone that you want to share a roof with for the rest of your life. Moving away from family arranged marriages and following the footsteps of your father's occupation is not detrimental. Yet, we have now gone to the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

Little regard is given to the effect that our decisions make on those close to us. It's my body; I can do with it as I wish. It's my money; I can spend it as I wish. It's my car; I can drive it how I wish. It's my life; I can live it as I wish.

Now where am I going with this and how does it tie to the passage? We have a plethora of people operating under freedom of choice - given by God and abused by man. With this abuse of liberty, you also have an enormous growth of frustration with those who are hoping to maintain a life clean and pure and free of question. So with those who are struggling to not conform looking upon those who are comfortable in their conformity, we see a rise of hatred and judgment. This just causes more "strife". It often just pushes people further away from grace and mercy.

Yet on the other hand, we have a large population of religious leaders who are extending grace and mercy and scorn judgment as it is only the place of God to issue judgment. So what is right? Whatever you say or do, do it all for the glory of God. WHATEVER. To me this is very black and white. You are not to judge. You are not to furrow your brow and demean people. At the same time, you are not to passively excuse SIN.

"Hey Buddy! I am a sinner and I really struggle with __________. It is hard. Daily, I must make the decision as to whether I am going to ask God to help me with this battle or if I am going to try to take it on myself. Do you deal with any of that?"


"Has this behavior brought you closer to God or further away from Him?"


"I don't know if I could do that. My strengths are different and it would be a stumble for me. It would probably cause me to lead others to stumble."


Just live it.

There are things that you can do to speak truth to your fellow believers that does not give them a rise of hatred towards you or to feel your hatred towards them. Hate the sin...not the sinner. BUT DON'T INGORE IT. God loves them so much and needs you to model a life that is honoring to Him so that they are able to see the difference.

Grace is to be extended. You are not to judge. Do not operate in hate and resentment. But don't be foolish enough to think that your passive acceptance of continual sin is not going to be something you must justify on Judgment Day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Hour of Trial

What to say today? I am overwhelmed with the painful topics that are laying before me today and am at a loss as to where to begin. I am heartbroken and anxious over what is going on around me in our world and I do not even see the correct words to speak. Here is what I do know, and here is what we have heard all of our lives as believers.

"'I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” Revelations 3:8-11

There is an open door set before every man, woman, and child on earth. This door is open for us to enter. The gift of eternal life is accepted as simply as stepping into the open door. Will we be able to say that we are among those who have kept His word in our heart and have not denied His name? Have we maintained endurance and acknowledged His incredible patience with us? Have we compromised our faith in order to survive, fit in, find peace, and find common ground?

The hour is coming, and I feel that it is sooner than later. Please know that I am not prophesying. I only want to make us alert. Whether Jesus comes back today or 50 years from now, He is coming and we are to be ready and on our guard. I am so broken about what I see happening in our world today not only by those who are professed Unbelievers, but for those who say they are in a growing and progressing relationship with their Creator.

So what do we do? With all of the complicated questions that are being posed to us as believers today, it is even more crucial that you KNOW HIM and KNOW HIS WORD, so that you KNOW THE TRUTH about the questionable matter presented. So many people just shrug their shoulders at controversial issues and say it doesn’t apply to me. It doesn’t? Are you sure? Wow, how things that were trivial and small 10 years ago are enormous today. Little did I know 15 years ago that my family would be plagued with cancer in many ways, so cancer research and the funding of such did not matter to me. It does now.

Yet I am talking about even more difficult matters than funding of hopeful cures. Here is what is before us right now of which you may or may not be trying to make an opinion.

1. World Vision’s decision to hire homosexuals who are in a married relationship. Know that whatever you decide, their decision will set in motion the decision of other organizations.
2. The truth and lies about this enormous missing plane. All sorts of conspiracy theories are arising and though you may not have any involvement in this mess, whatever is truth or lie is vital to what will be truth or lie in the future with other important shocking incidents.
3. Obama’s Healthcare plan
4. Obama’s recent summit with all of the governors
5. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – YES IT DOES INVOLVE YOU
6. Duck Dynasty’s up and down acceptance because of Phil’s interview (know the full story)
7. Education reform and the compromises being made for socialist structure
8. Abortion reform – they will present you with every complicated angle, so be ready to know what you would say (incest, rape, danger to the mom, danger to both, etc.) And know what you would say if it were you or your daughter.
9. Legalization of narcotics – it’s coming (remember prohibition didn’t work for long)
10. Elevated debt to meet the needs of the needy – what does God say about your finances (and our government’s finances)? What does God say about tending to the needy? Who are the needy according to scripture?
11. Our acceptance of words that are unpleasant and sights that is unpleasant on the television. You know if you watch, than they assume you accept it.

The world right now scares me. I have 2 little ones to raise and I know that it will only be more challenging for them. We must be on our guard. We must know His word. For His patience will eventually wear out and will we be able to say that we did all that we could to make His name, His Word, His will known so that all will be aware that the choices they have made were informed choices. You must know so that they will know.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Vanity v. Preservation

When I watch chick flicks and am sucked into the story line, I am not just enthralled with the actual romance or drama. I often take on the emotion and the personality of one of the characters. Obviously for the redundant romantic comedies, I am the goofy girl who tries to manipulate the boy into falling in love with her or who shyly avoids the awkwardness of the inevitable intimacy ensuing. Yes, I LOVED (AND STILL DO LOVE) DIRTY DANCING and I would watch that movie over and over again until I actually learned the entire final dance between Baby and Johnny...and all of their other dances too including that horrible Carlton looking think at the Sheldrake. (Psst - I see you grinning as you picture that scene) I choked to death in the movie Somersby when she discovered who this returned soldier truly was and was caught in this incredible climax of emotions. Who doesn't love When Harry Met Sally or You've Got Mail or Casablanca or The Notebook or goodness knows, The Titanic? I know that there are guys groaning right now, but I also know there are a few that understand the strategy of taking your lady to see a good chick flick.

I can even play the missing role. You know this critical person. They are the important figure remembered or vaguely mentioned in the storyline in order to tug at your heart all the more as you watch this absentee's loved ones try to manage life without them. I have felt the pain of the missing mom in the Patriot watching my husband grieve and try to raise my children to be upstanding respectable adults and I wanted him to love again. I wanted my children to have a mom. Or in Return to Me when the donor wants for her widowed husband to find love again.

But let's go to those chick flicks that are really just for CHICKS. When the movie is a celebration of the friendship of women, you tend to see more women line up to view this piece of cinematography in the theaters over men. When you see inside jokes best understood by those who have dramatically more estrogen (or at least have had at one time in their lives) you tend to see a different connection. So in these movies, I find myself sizing up the cast of characters and deciphering which one is the best representation of me - the me that I see. I am a leader. I always have been. I have been known to be bold and brass in the past, but not so much at this stage in my life. I have fluctuated in my "size" and I have fluctuated in my fashion knowledge and ability. I am emotional and can go from extremely frustrated to extremely sympathetic within a 30 minute period. You just have to pull the right heart string. And yes friends from the past, I am a tad more quiet than I once was. I am sure it will fade like the wind and in my elderly state, my aggressive demeanor will return only to humiliate my children and grandchildren.

In these chick flicks, there is always a certain amount of characters, each to portray a certain personality in a little clique. There is always the beautiful leader who has just enough intelligence to maintain her role as leader. There is the sidekick who varies in her characteristics. Sometimes sidekick #1 is ditzy and clueless ready to be conned into whatever the leader devises. Sometimes sidekick #1 is a willing follower, but is begrudging as she follows her great leader secretly griping about poor choices the entire time and yet doing nothing to question the leader. Sometimes sidekick #1 is a replica of the great alpha female and can easily take command if there is an absence because of an unfortunate scheduled deviated septum surgery.

The rest of the girls usually have some sort of comic relief. This person is depicted in different ways in each film, but more often than not, the comic relief does not possess the same physique as the alpha female. Then there is the quiet and reserved and often submissive member of the posse. This character is often portrayed as homely only to later emerge as a bombshell. Sometimes there is a tomboy. Sometimes there is a transient. Sometimes there is a guy who is a friend of the gals with some sort of backstory. Sometimes there is an older member of the crowd serving as the great owl for them.

Think about it...Steel Magnolias, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Mean Girls, even now, there is a movie out entitled The Single Moms Club. Think about all the characters. If you have watched these movies, than you have connected with one of the characters. Some of you are confident enough to connect with the leader, but there are many of us that fall into one of the other members of the motley crew. Why is that? Why can't we all connect with the leader?

Well Jodi, we can't all be bold and beautiful. Why not? If you are reading a book or engaging in a story that is captivating your thoughts, why do you not allow yourself the pride to be the leader? I will tell you that often I do not. It isn't because I do not feel capable of leading. Quite frankly, it is how they are portrayed in the story - the beautiful "me" monster. I want to be a leader, but I do not see myself in either of the other categories.

Hmmm. Is that right? Sorta, but not really. We get stuck on just the appearance and the questionable uncomfortable confidence. It is NOT WRONG to take care of your appearance. It is wrong to obsess with your appearance so much that it robs you of time doing God's work and it causes you to think and say things that poorly influence others. And it is not wrong to have your own kind of beautiful. Not everyone is blonde. Not everyone is 5'10". Not everyone can run in stilettos. Not everyone looks good in red lipstick. Not everyone is tan. Not everyone is 115 lbs. Not everyone is driving a convertible like Christy Brinkley in all the National Lampoon movies. Be you. Be - YOU -tiful. Enjoy the movies, but don't drag them into your life. They are merely a story.

Proverbs tell us in Chapter 11, verse 22, "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout, is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion."

This verse is referring to allocation of time. Although it is not wrong to want to care for your temple and make it presentable in God's eyes, it is wrong to spend so much time on it that it you lead others to find insecurity in their temple appearance...that you lead others to question the structure of their temple...that you lead others to begin to use their time for self-improvement when it could be used for devotion to callings God has placed on them requiring that time spent in the mirror.

Do take care of yourself. Do give proper maintenance of this body with which you have been blessed. Do exercise...not to fit in skinny jeans, to keep your muscles from getting stiff and to maintain blood flow so that all areas of your body are being properly nourished. Do eat right...not so you reach a certain number on a scale, but rather to help your digestive system not have to work so hard to sort the good and the bad and the ugly. Do tend to your skin, but it doesn't have to be exhaustive. Just keep it moisturized and protected from the sun so it will last you until you no longer need it.

Be You. You are covered with His fingerprints. See them?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Know That You Are For Me

There is irony and appropriateness in so many things that happen in our life. Have you ever taken time to evaluate the various aspects of your life? This morning is a morning of reflection for me. As you might notice, I am a thinker and an inside processor. I tend to not speak until I have chewed on my thoughts for a certain amount of time...unless I am in time of heightened emotion like I mentioned in my previous post. That's never good. :) Today is my birthday and some people awaken on this day with dread because yep, you are another year closer to death. Some people wake up on this day with excitement ready to conquer the world with enthusiasm and celebration. Some people awaken and see it as just another day. Some people awaken with reflection of the years gone by.

I am a little of all, well, except the death dread. I love life. I especially love the Giver of life and I am aware that the days I have had and will continue to have are numbered. And no, I am not one of those who thinks it would be neat to know how many more days I have left. I would spend the remainder of my time cramming activities and having anxiety attacks about what activity I am not going to get to do and what person I am not going to get to spend enough time with. That would just be way too much for me.

But I do love life. I love it because I have been blessed. So as I awaken this morning and reflect back upon the years I have taken up space on this earth, I cannot help but spend time reflecting over all that has happened to me and around me. I cannot help but see this GIANT hand pushing, pulling, lifting, shielding, holding, comforting, scolding, protecting, sustaining, healing, leading me through all of my adventures that I have had.

Oh Father, how thankful that I am given the chance to see your work in my life. I know that many go through life's journey with the question "why?" hovering over their head constantly. I know that you are present in every storm and every stillness. I know that you are holding the answers to why and will always answer in due time. I am blessed to be able to see your hand moving in and through me as I exercise my freedom of choice of which you have extended to me. Thank you for listening to specific pleas over these past years and not just answering them, but fulfilling them until my cup runneth over. My "why" that I am often plagued with is why do you find me worthy to exert any blessing upon? I fail you. I disappoint you. I make bad choices. I wrestle with things causing you to have to reach down and rescue me when I shouldn't have even approached that bear at all. I would like to share with the readers how I know that You are for me as I look back and am overwhelmed by where you have blessed me. I pray that today, on my day of birth, the day I celebrate with great enthusiasm, it is clear I want to celebrate not me, but YOU! Thank you God for

1. saving me at a young age
2. allowing me to be born in a home with not one, but two parents who fear you and serve you
3. giving me access to a Bible and freedom to worship You whenever and wherever I want because men who went before me 238 years ago found it important to protect this freedom
4. good Christian friends throughout my life to pray with me, challenge me, speak on behalf of you to me
5. the drive and determination that you give me to grow
6. the gift of discernment
7. the ability to curl up in your lap and just talk and then to LISTEN
8. the MANY times I have audibly heard you speak to me
9. a good education
10. a university that assisted me in my growth both in knowledge and wisdom of this world AND knowledge and wisdom of you
11. a man to come alongside me and lead my family by his faith in You
12. supportive extended family who have always made us feel like we are loved and encouraged
13. two beautiful children when we thought we could have none
14. healing of my husband countless times over his life, but even specifically the MIRACLES you have performed in his life since we have been married
15. 27 years with a mother who was INCREDIBLE and modeled for me and an entire community what is it like to know that You are for me. (this blessing deserves about 10 more posts alone)
16. grandparents and great grandparents and beyond who raised my parents to fear and love you so that they could pour that same life of adoration into me
17. a brother who is one of my biggest fans and a cherished friend and an incredibly intelligent and insightful role model
18. In-laws who love the Lord and love me and make me feel like I am there child too
19. a career choice that allows me to exercise the gifts that you have given to me
20. jobs that have allowed me to cross paths with some of the most AMAZING people and have taken care of me during many of our storms
21. doctors just in time
22. a child who is already whole with my mother in Heaven and the peace to let it go
23. a roof over my head with heat and air conditioning
24. the physical ability to run and the great relief it gives as I am alone with you and restoring my body.
25. time

Kari Jobe is one of my favorite Christian artists and she has a song that I sing at the top of my lungs in the car with my girls. Here are parts of the lyrics. I pray that today, on this first day of Spring - the season that is of new beginnings - you are able to see where He has been with you in the past and you are able to take a deep breath and step forward with confidence to know that He is with you always. ALWAYS

So faithful
So constant
So loving and so true
So powerful in all You do

You fill me
You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You

I know that You are for me
I know that You are for me
I know that You will never
Forsake me in my weakness

And I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who You are

So patient
So gracious
So merciful and true
So wonderful in all You do

Be blessed today! Happy Spring!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Verbal Vomit

When I was younger in my years, ok, yesterday, I tended to be sometimes lacking in caution with my words. Now do not get me wrong. Between the two adults that call my address home, I am far stronger at the filtering of words. However, I am also that soul that will literally sit up in bed sometimes reliving stupid things that I let spew out of my mouth causing me embarrassment or causing harm to another or causing the misrepresentation of my Lord. Do you do that? Even now as I confess this, I feel that overwhelming squirmy flush feeling that washes over me with the laundry list of do-overs I wish I could have. Some of them would even be laughed at by you, but to me, I felt just reckless with my words. Or perhaps they were not reckless, I just chose to try to be cool or to fit in only to have that awkward silence follow as what I said did not make any sense or was just plain inappropriate.

At this very moment, I am taking time to apologize to all of you that I have vomited of the mouth towards. Know that I am a fallen and sinful human who is aware of my shortcomings and aware that I am not worthy to have a mouth to speak with, so I am sorry that I have said anything to cause you grief or discomfort. I hope your life is better because you rose above my stupidity.

If we were to survey the culture of my generation, the freedom of speech is probably the primary freedom that many of them would first note among those protected by our great and dynamic founding document. And as my generation has matured, I see that this freedom has been embraced all the more instead of reservedly protected like the previous generations. Wouldn't you agree? I know that my parents were extremely aware of their rights and the precious ones protected by a document written by men that had never even touched a typewriter much less an iPad. Yet, I am also aware that my parents and a large fraction of their generation have exercised a disciplined restraint of this freedom in a greater capacity than my generation. So if the decline is occurring from parents to child from this slope, than it will continue as the next generation comes of age to formulate speech and the exercise of said freedom.

Yet, as I am among those who still struggle with being Chatty Cathy, I am also aware that my words are powerful and strong. The book of Proverbs takes great lengths to remind us that our words are something that can be helpful or harmful. In fact, there is greater emphasis placed on what NOT to do than on how to properly speak. So in other words, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. Hatred stirs up dissention, but love covers over all wrongs. Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of him who lacs judgment. Proverbs 10:11-13

In my usage of my freedom of speech, am I providing direction to the fountain of life? Am I using my freedom of speech to spill love over all wrong? Am I exercising discernment with my speech so that the rod may be spared?

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19

I don't have to even explain that one, right?

With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape. Proverbs 11:9

The first reading of this passage makes me think of the scandalous malicious soul operating under a life of rebellion and destruction. However, as I read over it again, I am aware that it is very simply pointing out those whom operate without knowledge - the gateway to understanding and wisdom - are in a reckless and harmful state that not only harms self, but also those very near and dear to you. How often does my freedom in speech actual impact those whom I spend larger amounts of my life with over those who are just passing by? Um, every time I exercise carelessness, I hurt those near me. Even when I am not with them, my careless words can cause embarrassment and judgment to be heaped upon them unduly.

As the very impacting passages in Proverbs continue to unfold, the use of the tongue, the motive of speech, the discernment of silence all continue to redirect us to a place of filtering. It is with this filtering that we will build our homes for the glory of the Lord. It is with this filtering that we will build our communities for the Lord. It is with this filtering that we will rise up new leaders to bring healing to our land. It is with this filtering, the simple act of guarding our speech, that we can change the world and bring God's kingdom into restoration so that all may know Him and know that He knows them.

Help me filter. Lord, thank you for your Word and the instruction it provides for me to clean up the vomit.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Goofy Gail

To laugh is a treasure and our family is classic in our ability to find humor in the strangest thing. My father and brother have a long standing repertoire of one liners derived from punch lines of either humorous or slightly ridiculous jokes or slapstick comedy they have been repeated over and over AND OVER AND OVER again for the duration of our lives. In fact, the rather intimate collection of inside jokes we now have are currently being bled into our children. I am of a parenting phase where I am following each thing my children digest from the adults in their life with, "please don't say that at school." No, my family does not have foul language or rude banter, but their humor is somewhat, well, goofy. So I do not wish for my children to go to school and misquote one of us and it come back to us it already has.

A few years back we had some family friends over who were discussing the plight of our government's current moral structure. My youngest, at the time 4 years old, went back to school and proceeded to share with her preschool class her newfound thoughts of the administration. Nothing like driving through the parent pick up line having multiple teachers giggle and tell you about how your child shared with them today "your" thoughts on the president. The funny thing of that day was the material of which my 4 year old quoted was not even spewed from either parent. Yet, guess what? We were the one's pinpointed with that perspective as this child is a product of our home.

Growing up I resided in a small town where almost everyone knew everyone and knew their business as well. So my ability to spew wisdom and embarrassment for and from my parents would not go unreported. I knew that whatever I said or did would get back to one of them...or both. So often I would catch myself as many a kid did saying things that were a repeat of my parents. Now, my parents were very good at being cautious about what they discussed in front of I was a gabster at a moderate level. My mom was everywhere gal. In my early childhood, she was a keyboarding teacher at the high school for a few years, the music minister at my church, a meals-on-wheels servant, WMU director of the association, dictation transcriber for doctors, children's choir director, piano teacher, substitute teacher, and probably 4-5 other things that I have forgotten. In my older elementary career, she opened her own business by establishing a music studio just outside of our home - literally 20 paces to the East of our house.

There came a big moment in my life towards my teen years where the repetition of things that were said in my home, both humorous and impacting, took a new turn for me. When I got to the high school in my small town, and began my little independent scholarly experience there, I realized my independence only carried me as far as my name. You see, my family had gone before me in this institution. My brother, the natural genius, had soared and created an impression of what is produced from our home. No pressure. But there was another family member who had impacted my little school...Mom. She only worked at the school for 2 years in the Business Education department, but she had made her mark. All of the faculty members who had shared a building with my mother knew her and when they saw me, they saw her. There is nothing like introducing yourself and having someone say, "Oh you're Gail's daughter." This, too, gave pressure. Often that statement was followed by stories of how precious she was or how sweet or even cute. Mom was everyone's "mom". She mothered us. She mothered her students, both high school and music. She mothered her coworkers. She mothered her Sunday School class. She mothered her pastors. She was a cute little mother hen.

Because she was a mom to all, when I would share little silly stories about recent things she did or said that was just funny, everyone knew the inside joke because they knew her. It wasn't just a story that was only humorous to our little core 4. It was enjoyable to all. Microwaving ice cream. Stomach eating itself. Folgers and carefree gum at the same time. Fa so la. Next gimmick diet. As Seen On TV purchases. That little noise she would make when you found a Christmas present or her discovery of a Christmas present she hid from herself that she later found in July. Going to the beach to never step foot on the beach. Her kindergarten hockey experience. Those are just a few.

My entire life, I have encountered people, even people in the town I now live who knew my mother and not me, who tell me things my mother has said or did. BIG. My mom said naive and cute little expressions. My mom said powerful and encouraging prayers. My mom did silly little things like break out into song with the slightest hint of a word to a song she knew. My mom would get mad at people who hurt her babies (all 1500 of them) and courteously speak her mind. My mom showered grace and forgiveness too. My repetition of things said at my home became more of an echo of the entire community. She was no different at home. You got the same woman wherever she was.

My brother wrote of her parking prayers today on his post and we laugh about it, but my kids even repeat those prayers today. I have spoken of her and it has impacted my girls to the point that what she did and said matters to them as well. Whoo! That'll give you some kind of emotion. They know her, even though they can't touch her. They ask about her ALL the time.

They know her because of others too. We nicknamed her Goofy Gail for some of the cute little things she would say and do. If being called goofy is a reflection of saying and doing things that point people to the greatness of God like my mom did, I want to be goofy too. Happy 72 Mom! Happy 8 + Eternity!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Don't Be Simple

Read Proverbs 7

"I'm just a simple man" would be common Southern colloquialism. By stating so, one is implying that they have neither a desire for loftier possessions or achievement, nor do they have a desire to create complication in their day to day routine. Perhaps it is used in other regions as well for the purpose of giving a collective description of one's approach to life, yet regardless of location, it is utilized to minimize convolution of thought. I have grown up with the mindset that these are the people to covet. They are happy and unbothered by life. They tend to be avoiding of the catastrophes that are often created by chaotic schedules and obligations. The simple man does not place themselves on a path that would lead to stress therefore seemingly healthy for the most part. So this approach is the right way to live, right?

Proverbs 7 describes the plight of the simple. Simplicity is meant here to describe those who are without goal, ambition, or direction. Just living life day to day in a state of vulnerability. Our author, who beseeched the Lord to be blessed with great wisdom, explains that simplicity is a reflection of one who lacks judgment. The greater concentration of the passage is emphasizing the necessity to stray from adultery and the temptation that lurks out in the world. Yet, the overall theme is avoiding temptation that causes you to stray from a life of wisdom and honor and integrity. In order to have wisdom, you must pursue it, possess it, and practice it. Those who exercise a simple life are not necessarily living a life that is in great disobedience to the Lord. Yet, they are creating more chaso than they are actually intending to do by their efforts to avoid struggles and strife.

Sometimes simplicity is not actually efforts to keep life from experiencing difficulty. It is avoidance of the effort needed in order to create safety and security. By pursuing wisdom, we are better able to combat the temptations that are presented to us. Simplicity cannot protect us from all temptation. Idleness can get to us all regardless of where we are. Even if you are a hermit, you can be wasteful of your time - a sign of poor judgment. Your overall health and well-being is improved with the basic steps of developing goals and ambition. This is not to say that everyone should have a day planner and mark each minute with scheduled activity, nor is this to say that each person is to pursue higher education and possess a doctorate in some field. It is ambitious to clean your house. It is ambitious to accomplish errands. It is ambitious to read a book from cover to cover. Like adultery, many different temptations lurk out in society trying to rob us of wisdom and to manipulate our understanding. If we are not developing our knowledge of what is good, what is pure, and what is noble, than we will be easily swayed into what is unworthy.

This battle is different for each of us and the enemy is aware of where we are weak. If we are not attempting to alter our weakened state, than we will be taken under without even realizing it. It is no different than training for physical well being. When you fail to work out or train for a certain period of time, your body will adjust to the absence of that training. I am a runner/jogger. When I do not run for a few days, my body is very responsive to this absence of training and it causes me great discomfort in many ways - even my mental state.

Being simple is not always best. Being complicated is not always best. Being too consumed with making the right decision and leading a life of stress and anxiety is the other extreme from simple and it is in no way a reflection of a life honoring to God either. So don't see my challenge today as a push for the other side of the spectrum. Wisdom also encourages discernment and with discernment comes balance and trust in the Lord.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

There's Still Time

Yesterday, I took part in what will most likely be a 2-3 week long process in our house. I started the Spring Cleaning sweep. Usually, the first thing I tackle is our closets. Right now, there is a strange, but systematic order to my madness. It could use some tweaking, and each year I try to make it more streamlined so I can shave a day or week off of this ordeal, but so far, still takes forever. Emma, my 9 year old, is blessed with new-to-her clothes from friends of our family. We take time to go through her precious gifts and figure out what can go in the closet now and what needs to be put away until she is slightly taller. Ha. Tall. Powells. Ha. Sorry, got tickled with that oxymoron.

After she picks her new additions to her closet, we must then remove from her closet the items that are to be blessed down to her younger, and yet almost the same size, sister. I must admit that I was quite proud with the way in which she let go of many items from her closet. Perhaps the heart-to-heart she had with her father several nights before concerning attachment to things was effective. She looked forward to being able to share her blessings with Abbi. After the purging of the closet, there was the restocking. Being blessed with new everything (thank you EJA), Emma took out some new items to put on for her pajamas last night.

It was as she was turning the shirt over multiple times to make sure the tag was on the right side before she pulled it over her head that I was caught in one of those moments. As she dressed herself, I still saw my tiny 2 year old that was just learning how to dress herself. As she grasped the material, I still saw her little hands and realized that though she was very far away from being my baby, she was still my little girl. It was at this moment that time froze for just a moment and a thousand thoughts ran through my mind at a million miles an hour. Memories of watching her learn to dress herself back when she was still tiny; when she first learned to put on shoes on the correct feet; when she first learned to tie her shoe; when she first started picking out her own outfits; when she first had displeasure for outfits I picked out; when she started brushing her own hair; when she started brushing her own hair without my help...

Then I was also paralyzed by the truth. Nine years are gone. Nine years of my ONE CHANCE to make a difference and to be the mom that she needs and to be the woman who models a godly example to her have flown by. But as she demonstrated to me her still delicate handling of items a precious innocence that is not quite lost, she also reminded me that I still have time and it is imperative that I be that one day she can be wise for her little one.

All of Proverbs is consumed with the charge for an adherence to wisdom. More specifically, there is instruction in the first few chapters for us to listen to our father's instruction (or mother). In Proverbs 4, there is challenge to listen so that you may live and find protection. Proverbs 4:23 says, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

I have taken this verse for personal consumption all of my life. Today it is new. Have I taught Emma and Abbi to guard their heart? Have I exposed them to methods to combat conflicts and problems so that they can still maintain a guarded heart? Have I shown them how to "let your eyes look straight ahead, fixing your gaze directly before you" as stated in Proverbs 4:25? Though I have now completed 1/2 of the time that I have with Emma guaranteed under my roof, I still have time. Oh how I am aware that they are watching. Oh how I want to not make their hearts a center of strife and disappointment in their future because they have not learned to guard it. Oh, how I want them to learn to have a great enjoyment of life and explore the world for all that God has to offer while fixing their gaze upon Him.

For you, there may seem like there is time lost. However, if you have anyone of the ability to exercise influence, than show them how to guard their heart and to keep their gaze directly before them. Know that someone is ALWAYS watching. It might be your children. It might be grandchildren. It might be your neighbor. It might be an older adult. It might be you. Let them be little. Oh do not ask them to be so focused on their future that they are not still children. But when being little turns into being an adult as playground drama causes the revelation of an unguarded heart, this is your moment. Teach them. There is still time.

Thoughts Outloud

So I almost died last week. OK, not really, but my second bout with kidney stones in 10 years and I was reminded once again how childbirth is NOT THAT BAD. After a few days of recovery, we were then slapped with that amazing bittersweet spring forward. The loss of an hour of blessed sleep combined with months of extended daylight to enjoy all that the world has to offer. Yep, that is just a wicked cruel and beautiful thing. From this week of experience it plays into my ever lengthening list of things that I wonder about. Some are items that I plan to chat with God about when we have time one day - you know, like forever. Others, I just wonder because I was heavily medicated on pain meds or because I am just me. Here are my thoughts out loud. If you wish to answer, than please do so. Otherwise, enjoy.

1. Why do companies that manufacture liquids that pump make the tube that is embedded into the liquid too short leaving several usages of soap, lotion, shampoo, spray bottles of cleaner, or chocolate syrup at Yogurt Mountain sitting at the bottom of the container? Then you have to either decide to chunk it or take the stupid top off and shake the rest of the needed item out only after you have turned the bottle in 9,000 different directions trying to siphon the rest of the liquid through the tube through gravity.

2. How many t-shirts are too many and why can't someone make a white one every once in a while? We have 35 black or navy t-shirts. Don't you people know that most t-shirts are made to be warn in the warm seasons and therefore making a shirt that is not as attractive to the great big ball of fire in the sky would make things slightly easier for those of us with absolutely no tint to our skin pigmentation?

3. Why does the American government still feel like it is necessary to involve ourselves in everyone else's crisis? We have become that girl in the school circles who flits around from clique to clique trying to make people like her by offering unrequested advice to others on how to better their lives.

Some people don't like us. So flitting into their chaos is not going to make them change their minds.
Some people like their way of life. So flitting into their world to tell them we think they need to do it better because our way is better is not going to make them like us.
Some people see us as the pot calling the kettle black..."you're telling us how to fix our economy/government/society/environment?"

4. Why can't I come up with the next big thing? I mean really. Someone came up with erasers shaped like toilets and plungers and 200 of my 225 students a few years back bought them at the school book fair. Rubber bands shaped like random animals, jewelry made out of rubber bands, Christmas tree hooks, etc. I'm thinking, I can't be far from something making a hit.

5. Why do some people wear clothes that they look incredibly uncomfortable in? I know, I know. Some of you are immediately thinking of my stilettos. Please understand that if they were killing me, I would not wear them. It isn't just shoes. Clothing - that isn't required uniform - tell me why you wear it?

6. Why Chuck Norris? Why not Bruce Lee? Or Clint Eastwood? Or Danger Mouse?

7. Why is there No Child Left Behind? Yep, I said it. I am in love with exposing education to all and bringing them to a passion for learning, but I am aware that not all children are the same. Only one person wins the Boston Marathon. One. Only 3 people medal in an event in the Olympics - 3. It is a part of life. I cannot build a rocket or change my oil. I cannot sew a stitch or remember all the metric system conversions. But there are those who can. It is ok that they are different from me and have strengths unlike me.
8. Why do we complicate the English language and with such absurd rules? I before E except after C; silent E; Oo, ew, ou can all sound the same and different; Read and Read are the same but different. It is all the more highlighted when doing spelling words with your child and trying to explain patterns. Never thought I would reduce myself to saying, "It just is. I don't know why?"

9. How many more flavors of Mountain Dew can there be?

10. RFDTV?

11. How fast will the progression of tolerance of inappropriate things in social media and entertainment industry continue to spiral?

12. Why do there have to be erectile dysfunction commercials during the middle of programs that could be family oriented? Thanks broadcasting companies for creating those family fun talks.

13. God, why roaches? And why are they so indestructible?

14. God, how come we can't kill mold? Please, I need some help with that.

15. God, did you intend for us to travel off of the planet that you designed just for us? I know that you have allowed it. However, we are creatures of selfish desire and what we have is never enough. Can't help but admit space exploration is amazing to me, but are we pushing it?

16. Allergies? Come on? Is that really necessary?

17. God, How many times do you laugh at me a day?

18. Are there animals that you made that you allowed to become extinct because you were done with that entertainment? Or is most of it our fault? And there are some out there that I cannot wait hear about your intention with that created thing?

More another day…

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Where Can I Park My Car?

So I’m a crier. We all know this full well, right? I can sob with the best of them at any given moment. However, I can hold it in as well as long as nobody touches me. Are you that way? You are a rock, but the minute someone tries to hug you or even put a hand on your shoulder, that thick layer of strength tends to weaken and sometimes cripple you. You know what is even more noticeable? When God is the one giving that hug or placing that hand on your shoulder. The crippling factor is only for a minute second as I am released from my worry knowing that there is a hand on my shoulder through my storm. Oh my goodness, it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

We encourage each other often with the wonderful words written in Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In ALL YOUR WAYS, acknowledge HIM, and HE will make your path straight.

There is that word again…trust. So many of us struggle with this term. We long to have a relationship with anybody that is trustworthy, but we are afraid that is not achievable. Think about it. Most everyone that you have encountered in your life has let you down in some form or fashion right? Maybe you have an amazing grandfather who seems perfect, but I can bet there is something in his life that he might not be proud of. We all make mistakes.

The matter of trust that is being discussed here is one that is being placed upon your Creator, you know that guy that spoke and things just all of the sudden came to be. Yeah, that guy. Not the guy that attended to you as you grew up. Not the guy who coached you through your favorite sport. Not the guy who broke up with you after proposing. Not the guy who gave you a job only to turn around and fire you because of budget.

You see, we equate trusting in the Lord with the only other examples of trust we are able to comprehend. Trusting in the one who is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent is not comparable to trusting your parent, or your coach, or your favorite teacher, or your best friend, or your soul mate. Though these people are valuable to you and also find value in you, they are not able to see your future. They are not able to be everywhere with you (or without you). They certainly do not have the power to do all things – including create.

I am the optimist in my family. The glass is half full. I always have hope. I live with a family of fuddy duddies though. They see the world through tainted and jaded goggles. Everyone is operating under an ulterior motive and nobody is worthy of trust and everyone will fail and life is not a bunch of roses. Blah, Blah, blah. I see everyone as having potential. I see that everyone deserves a second chance, maybe even a 3rd.

However, I am far more guarded than some. I understand all too well that people can disappoint me and hurt me and let me down. I have not lived in a cave or bubble for the past few decades. People are greedy and people are needy and people are manipulative and people are deceitful. But guess what? God isn’t. So I trust Him. That trust is what gives me hope and helps me see the potential in others.

When I am struggling over who God has chosen to use in my life to give me verbal guidance, I stay on my knees. Even well intentioned mentors can lead you down the wrong path. Above all, go with your gut…because your gut is sometimes more than just your nerves. Often, it is God speaking to you with your gut.

Now, don’t live a life of naivety. I am not saying to trust everyone. The emphasis is IN ALL YOUR WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, and then He will make your path straight. So, in other words, when you feel that trusting someone is questionable, pray about it. When you can’t decide on a job, pray about it. When you are afraid of losing your home, pray about it. When you are confused about a discipline issue, pray about it. When you can’t decide what to order at a restaurant because of budget or diet, pray about it. The Lord NEVER TIRES of hearing you speak to Him. My mother used to pray for a close parking space everywhere we went. My father would tease her and tell her to quit bothering God with that request. It mattered to her, so she asked it of the Lord.

When you actually trust Him, you will see His hand at work. Remember you are not dealing with another human. You are trusting someone who has the power to spin your little world around a large ball of fire causing life to spring forth whenever He desires. You will feel his touch and maybe even His hug. You will no longer be bound by circumstances, but you will sprint with new energy that is given by allowing that trust to be initiated. Oh how He loves you and me.

Monday, March 03, 2014

What is Right?

Long before I even knew that my church was also going to embark upon the book of Proverbs for the month of March, I had decided that I wanted to walk through these passages myself. So go check out the insight of my fellow believers as they walk through this book as well.

There is so much to learn from this great book leaving it deserving of separated acknowledgement. We often use passages from Proverbs on encouragement cards or portraits sold at Lifeway for there are so many simple and yet meaningful statements given by the writer, Solomon - son of David. God did not allow Solomon to sit down and just write down randomness though. There is purpose and flow to the writing.

Chapter one should be read before any other verse in the book. Solomon goes to great length to explain the difference between wisdom and lack thereof. Often, some of us find ourselves comparing our wisdom to other academia and feeling that we fall short. Understand that wisdom is not measured by your memorization of the Periodic Table and the chemical compounds that cause certain reaction. Nor is wisdom measured by your ability to out negotiate someone in a trade or business transaction.

Wisdom comes from knowledge, but they are not the same. Knowledge is a strong collection of information. Wisdom is the action that is application of knowledge. You can know the truth, but if you do nothing with that knowledge, than you are lacking wisdom and are truly no better than the ignorant.

The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7

Understanding the source of knowledge - God - will lead you to the starting point of knowledge. However, you must take that knowledge and let it grow as you not only know God is the source of knowledge, but you also get to know God and immerse yourself in greater knowledge. With that greater knowledge, you will obtain understanding of many things that are occurring in life. To gain greater knowledge, you must be disciplined to invest in a relationship with the Almighty. A relationship is two ways, meaning you must be silent and listen as well as speak and petition.

Before Solomon mentions the establishment of fear, or reverential trust, he also mentions doing what is right. So many times our lives are presented with very complicated questions that leave us perplexed as to what is right and what is wrong. Not everything is black and white. Some of you may be further along in your ability to discern right from wrong than others. And some of you may think you know right from wrong, but you don't.

For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair. Proverbs 1:3-4

When you cannot find a specific answer to a question in life in the scriptures, do what is right and just and fair. Our busy lives are crammed with situations that were not common in Biblical times. You will not find in the scripture specific direction on certain gray areas. However, this is one of those verses that I claim when struggling in my complicated questions. Do what is right. In my prayers and petitions to the Lord to reveal to me what is right, I find that HE ALWAYS DOES REVEAL to me what is right. However, I have to be disciplined to listen to Him, to seek the knowledge, and attain the wisdom to properly use in my decisions and actions.

When you do not know what is right to do in a situation life presents to you, AND you haven't been saturating yourself in His presence and word, do not expect the answer to just appear like a neon sign. You must sit in His presence and be willing to slow down and listen, for He will speak. However, I will tell you from personal experience, I have had my fair share of flashing neon signs. When you ARE disciplined in your time with the Lord and you ARE earnestly seeking knowledge and you ARE trying to apply knowledge, He will speak loudly. LOUDLY.

What is right? Ask Him. He will answer. Be ready though. Sometimes His answer is eye-opening and awe-inspiring and shocking.