Saturday, April 25, 2009

Learning from Life

James 1:2-4: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

This weekend Jerry and I went to a HOPE ( Conference at our church. Hearing stories of God's faithfulness when people experience tough times was very refreshing.

We all experience trials. They are just a part of life. We can't prevent them from coming. We certainly can't shorten them; however, we can probably lengthen them if we don't learn quickly what God is trying to teach us.

When my kids were small, if they embraced discipline and instruction, life was easier for us all. The punishment was necessary to form their character just as life challenges are designed to form ours.

Besides journaling (which I will talk about another day), here's what I ask God during tough times:
(1) Is there anything I have done to cause my trial?
(2) Is there anything I need to repent of?
(3) Is my perspective wrong?
(4) How do I need to react to these circumstances?
(5) Is there anything specific I need to do?
(6) What can I learn from this situation?

In the Bible each battle mentioned was different and required a specific battle plan. In the same way there's a unique strategy for each situation I face. I need to hear from God instead of doing my own thing.

As I work through things, there are times God changes my circumstances; however, other times He just changes me instead.

What have you learned in times of trouble in your own life?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Enjoying the Race

Hebrews 12:1: ...Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

It's been a few days since I've posted a blog. I have been busy running the race God has marked out for me. Part of my race is just keeping up with the everyday routine.

Sometimes it's not exciting to vacuum the floor -- again -- and do the laundry one more time; however, it is those very things that teach me consistency and persistence.

The tasks don't bother me near as much when my mind is fixed on spiritual things. Keeping the worship music playing speeds me up which helps me finish faster. I can pray and listen for God's voice as I'm cleaning the shower, and I can sing praises while I'm mopping the floors.

When I'm communing with God as I'm doing those less desirable chores, I feel joy in the menial. I might be working on earth, but in my mind, I can be seated in the heavenlies with Christ. What a view! In that position, my perspective seems to change and what once seemed like drudgery, now is enjoyable.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

His Race or Mine?

Hebrews 12:1: ...Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Just thinking about my list today is exhausting! I feel entangled! The race I want to run is not the one the Lord has marked out for me. It's my own agenda!

Even though I have journaled and prayed for God's help in letting some things go, I'm still wrestling. Quite frankly, I really want to do it all.

In addition to the prayer and journaling, I need to:
(1) Prioritize
(2) Release the stress as it invades my thoughts
(3) Replace anxiety with the promises of God
(4) Focus on the words of the worship music I have playing

The difference in God's race and my own is that He created me and knows what I can handle. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says: "...All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He'll never let you be pushed past your limit; He'll always be there to help you come through it." (The Message)

If you, like me, are struggling today, let's make a decision to walk back on God's track so we can feel that holy breeze on our backs, helping us accomplish more than we could possibly on our own!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Choose Life!

Deut. 30:19: I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

When my son, Erik, was just a toddler, he walked up to our fireplace and said, "No, no, no, no, no," and then lunged forward. I only wanted to protect him. At that age, he had no concept of fire.

Fortunately, I was there to rescue him before he was burned. However, as Erik grew, I wasn't there to move him from dangerous situations. It was a choice he had to make for himself.

As we mature in Christ, He expects us to obey Him too. As any loving parent, He wants what is best for us. He's not trying to keep us from having fun!

Today I choose life and blessings, and hope you will do the same!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Multiangular Memories

Romans 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

When the kids were small,we spent Easter at my parent's home. Having the table set and the delicious aroma coming from the kitchen produced an atmosphere of warmth.

Besides the annual bunny cake, my parents made it a tradition to hide Easter eggs in the backyard for the grandkids. My boys loved going out with their cousins finding those goodies. Eating the candy was not half as much fun as the hunt itself.

I'll never forget the year my dad thought it was a good idea to put a ten dollar bill in one of the eggs. Two of my boys headed for this loaded egg, so they each thought they deserved the $10 prize! Due to the arguing that followed, that was the first and last year we had "green" Easter eggs.

Even though that particular scene was stressful at the time, now I can laugh about what happened. Today one of my sons and I were reminiscing about this episode, and he remembered things I didn't. I'm sure if the rest of the family were here, we'd each have a different viewpoint.

It's kind of like watching replays in a football game. The footage shows every possible angle, and they are all accurate. Seeing the play with all the points of view is what decides how the game moves forward.

Mixed with the good memories in life, we all experience tough times. However, looking at every angle (what we can learn, do differently, etc.) will give us a new perspective on how to continue this game called life.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

No Leanness Wanted!

Psalm 106:15: And He (God) gave them (the Israelites) their request, but sent leanness into their soul.

When my son, Erik, was really young, people would ask him what he wanted for Christmas. His response was, "All the toys at K-Mart."

Isn't that just like us sometimes with God? We want it all! However, even though some things are good, they are not always beneficial for us. I know we should pray for specific things to get specific answers,however, I have told God to never give me anything that would bring leanness to my soul.

When I was pregnant with Erik, I wanted a girl. In retrospect, I'm so glad he was a boy. A few years later, his brother, Kevin, joined him, and five years later Nate was born. I'm so thankful God blessed us with all boys. He knew exactly what Jerry and I needed.

Their growing years were great but sometimes challenging. When the kids were all young, my mom told me once that my entire life I never had a reason to raise my voice, so God gave me three boys to help "round out my personality."

Just like shaking a soda and watching it explode over the top, I never knew what was inside of me until they shook me up a few times. Instead of screaming and losing control, I had to learn to be patient and calm. They taught me consistency and firmness. I also learned how to pray because of them.

We were supposed to be raising them, but on the flip-side, they raised us. God used them to build character in us and teach us many life lessons. For that, I am grateful.

They have become awesome young men of God. Five years ago I got my first girl, my beautiful daughter-in-law, Lauren. Before we knew her, we prayed for her. She's the perfect mate for Erik, and brings much needed balance to our family.

Yes, God does know exactly what I needed then and He still does! I want His way more than ever now!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Captive & Content

Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

One day I'm going to get a new laptop, but in the meantime, I'm trying to be content with what I have. Often when I'm typing, the cursor jumps to an entirely different location--kind of like life does sometimes.

Have you ever found yourself in circumstances you didn't plan on? It reminds me of what God told the Israelites in Jeremiah 29. They had been taken captive to Babylon. I'm sure they didn't want to be there. However, God told them to build houses, settle down, pray for the blessings of God on that place, and trust His plan.

My friend, Katie, is in the hospital. She's pregnant and for the safety of her little girl may have to stay there until her birth--which could be a long while. She could be complaining, but instead she is looking at the bigger picture, wondering how God is going to use her situation for her good.

Yesterday I visited Katie to bring her a little sunshine. I was extremely fatigued when I got there, but I left refreshed and able to conquer the rest of my day. She encouraged me instead.

I'm sure Katie is a favorite of all the nurses on staff there. If she can't change her location, she will change the atmosphere around her. She's settling in and making the most of every opportunity that comes her way.

If Katie can be content, can't I do the same? It kind of puts things in perspective. After all, Jeremiah 29:11 tells me He has plans for me that will give me a hope and a future. I just have to trust Him.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Appoint Me Lord!

Jonah 4:6: So the Lord appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.

In the Arizona sun, we all depend on shady spots. Today I was eating on the run and looked for a parking place under a tree. The first place I chose caused the shade to be on the passenger side of the car. Eventually I had to move because the heat made it so uncomfortable.

Growing up there was a plaque on our kitchen wall that said, "Bloom Where You Are Planted." There are certain people God has planted in my life and I'm very thankful. They have been shade for me in times when I really needed it.

In the above verse in Jonah, I love the fact that God appointed the plant. I want to be appointed by God to shade my friends as well.

The plant's job was just to be there. The plant did not tell Jonah what to do or try to change him. Sometimes when our friends are hurting, we feel uncomfortable and wonder what to say. Just being there is enough.

Has God appointed you to be shade for anyone specific today? I pray He will use you to bring refreshment to all those you come in contact with.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I'm being pruned!

John 15:1-2, 5 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. I am the vine; you are the branches.

Last year my patio was filled with flowers. This year I planted herbs. I discovered I can purchase herb plants for about the same price as cut herbs, and they certainly make my cooking better!

They remind me of God, my Master Gardener, and how important it is for me to stay connected to the True Vine.

As long as I give my plants a little water and keep them pruned, they look awesome and taste good too! Spiritually speaking, the Word of God is like water to my soul -- but what about pruning!

A while back I had a dream that I was trying to go through a doorway, and I had so many packages in my hands I could not fit through. I was forced to lay some things down to walk into the beautiful room on the other side.

I'm sure in those packages were things I loved. However, I don't want anything to prevent me from entering into God's best for me!

There are times God must remove things from my life! Even though I don't enjoy the process, I do appreciate the result--more fruitfulness!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Guard Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 (God's Word Translation)
Guard your heart more than anything else because the source of your life flows from it.

Since Proverbs 4:23 indicates I'm the one who must guard my heart, I need to take it seriously. No one else will do it for me. I'm the one who chooses what I allow to enter into me.

I can't change my circumstances or what other people do or say, but I can choose my reaction. If I just ignore things that offend me, I discover later they really did affect me negatively. Instead I try to make it a practice of verbalizing to God either through journal or prayer how I feel and then choose to forgive.

When I visited Ireland a few years ago for a missions trip, we were told not to drink the water in that building because the pipes were contaminated. In the same way, if I allow unforgiveness to dwell in my heart, what flows out will pollute others. Instead I want my pipes clean so God can flow through me to refresh those I come in contact with.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Conficker Worm

If you've been on the computer or listened to the news lately, you've heard of the conficker virus. April 1st is supposed to be the big day. We've been warned to make sure our computers are updated with the latest Windows applications and virus software. Thieves are trying to control our computers.

There is also a real enemy trying to take control of our lives. John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Today we are watching because we have been warned; however, I heard this worm can be dormant in our computers for a while, and when we least expect begin stealing all our personal information.

Matthew 24:43 says, "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into."

These words are a good reminder to us that we must stay alert every day. One way I keep myself on guard is by asking daily for God to show me areas of my life I need to correct. In coming days, I will discuss additional ways to stay alert. You may want to share some of your own. Feel free to comment.