Chasing Fantasies

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
     But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!” ~Proverbs 28:19

What kind of friends do we keep? Do they lift us up or drag us down? Do we interpret lifting up as making one happy and encouraging a continual party? Or do our friends encourage us to strive for the best in ourselves and develop Godly goals? The friends we keep help develop our character and our future. The words that fill our ears affect our thought patterns. When we follow friends who are frivolous and live in a continual party mode, we begin to slip into those same patterns. After all, how hard is it to work a full week while receiving continual message requests to skip off to the mall, salon, or the beach? We put our job, as well as any advancement, at risk of collapse. We find ourselves in poverty.

I like how the NIV puts the second half; “But the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” This version is a great analogy of the get rich schemes of today. Advertisers take advantage of lazy people (who in their greed want something for nothing) by promising high returns for very little input, whereas the scheme rarely brings profit for the participant. Many marriages have been wrecked from a spouse who secretly spent savings on get rich Money Trading and Wall Street ventures. Anything hidden from your spouse is not of God, for God is light. If you don’t trust the Lord to be your provider, your faith is in the temporal. If you believe your worth is established in wealth, you will end up chasing fantasies.

“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
     Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” ~Proverbs 28:6

Money in and of itself is not the enemy. However, the love of the world’s money for our own pleasure is where destruction lies. To prosper in earthly wealth is not the satisfying prosperity God has to offer. As with everything else, God looks at the heart. If your heart is clouded with unforgiveness and selfishness, you will not have the peace and joy of His prosperity. God desires his children to have all he has to offer. Wealth is already his. He created the earth! But how we obtain our material possessions and the friends we keep determines the quality of our heart. When we promote ourselves by befriending the rich, or that popular friend, for our own benefit, we are living in self-centeredness without integrity. James 2:5-6 says, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?” Are these the kind of friends you want? But, to have friends of integrity, you must have integrity. The best way to check your heart is to look at how you treat others on your way up that ladder. What kind of prosperity do you desire? Do you desire the world’s wealth or to prosper in all that God has for you?

“Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,
    but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.” ~Proverbs 28:27

The concept of giving to others so God can give to us is all too foreign. Acts 20:35 says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  To be rich with God’s wealth is a blessing, to be rich with that which we did not earn righteously is a curse. An old saying that is proven trusted and true: “If you take care of the things of God, He will take care of you.” This comes from Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Do you trust Him to provide? Will you be satisfied with the Lord’s provision? In His hand is the only place true contentment is found.

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**If you enjoy devotionals with beautiful artwork that you can doodle as you read…check out my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles journal which can be found through The Thinking Tree Publishing Company on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles. The above is an excerpt from Day 28 of Proverbs!

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I Have Ancestors!

It’s funny…until the past few years I thought my ancestors were non-existent. I had to come from somewhere, didn’t I?

After hearing little snippets here and there, I finally took the DNA plunge. I know…it’s a trendy thing right now. My dad won’t even consider it. He thinks the government will steal his biological history and use it to create a look-alike robot, or capture him and put him a Chinese torture chamber! 😉 But, if I had his military/war history, I would have those fears too. I think most people already know that the “powers that be” already know more about us than we do!

I’ll find out in a few weeks just where I came from! Most American’s have no clue due to the constant revolving door. When I was living in Ukraine, a lady told me that she was of the “pure” race. Well, she was basically putting me down for being a mixed-breed-mongrel. LOL. **Sigh**

Oh if only she knew that we were all created by God…and he loved each of us no less than the other! I wonder how many relationships would heal if we all looked at each other through the loving eyes of our Creator…and loved each other the way he loves us…

 

Scriptures for Hope:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” ~John 3:16-17

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” ~1 John 4:10

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:37-40

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~John 13:34-35

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” ~Romans 5:5

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8

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The Iris of the Eye

Have you ever studied the anatomy of the eye? The iris is the ring of color which determines the size of the pupil that regulates the amount of light filtering into the retina which transmits the images to our brains. Our eye color is determined by the pigments in the iris. The name “iris” is derived from the Greek goddess of the rainbow, because of the many colors in the iris. While I don’t follow Greek myths much, it is interesting that our colors admittedly are derived from God’s rainbow. The iris of the human eye is quite a mystery. While the common colors consist of brown, blue, green, hazel, or grey, occasionally people are born with a mixture of all colors, creating new eye colors!

We are all created unique. People have a hard time seeing outside the box of what mankind has deemed acceptable. So why, oh why, do we try so hard to fit into someone else’s box? I want her hair. I want his muscles. We tend to feel disliked if we don’t look like supermodels. Think about it…what really is normal? Is your normal…normal? Is mine? The world’s greatest accomplishment will never surpass the beauty of God’s creation!

The ugliest person ever born is completely loved by the one who created the world. Don’t listen to the lies of those who only seek to control and destroy. For, the ugliest person to the world is especially loved and beautiful in the colorful eyes of God.

You are enough.

You are beautiful.

You. Are. Loved.

The Iris of the eye
Filters light to the soul
Painted by God himself
In colors of His rainbow
Trust in Him, and believe,
For you truly are
Fearfully and wonderfully made!

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:13-16

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Looks just like who?

Do you have a kid that you have no idea where they came from? I mean the kid looks nothing like either parent! That’s the way I feel. I look a little more like my dad, but then some like my mother, and who knows who else. :/

I’ve heard that we are a combination from the DNA of our 16 great-great-grandparents. Living on a dairy farm, that’s one thing farmers learn quick when breeding to a pure herd. It takes four generations to out-breed a trait. It’s uncanny the similarities between cows and humans. 😉

With my dysfunctional family tree, I have very little knowledge of my great-great-grandparents. I have a few names, but that’s about it. Heck, I only have pictures of two of my grandparents much less anyone farther back! Which means my great-grandchildren will be the first in my line to know the features of their 16 great-great-grandparents. I’ll be long gone by then…

So when someone says, “Oh he/she looks JUST like so-and-so!”

Hmm…

They don’t have a clue.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.” ~ Psalms 127:3-4

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Message in a Costa Rica Poem

I wrote this in Costa Rica, while looking through the scenes you don’t see in the Travel brochures…

His Redemptive Treasure
 
Endless webs of metal
     Spin fear upon black tar.
Dark lungs grasping dense air,
     Fierce anger wonders far.
 
Life’s hope is lost for those
     Who dwell within locked bars.
With fear of evil woes
     Bitterness turned to scars.
 
Searching for life’s purpose
     The world’s empty pleasure.
Who will bring God’s true light?
     His redemptive treasure?
 
His death upon the cross
     Covered our scars of sin;
Brought joy in redemption,
     Hearts full of peace within.

~Nora Marie

 

I never let this poem go anywhere…it’s not one of my best works…not even close. But now that my ex mom-in-law is lying in a hospital bed breathing her last, this holds a higher place in my heart. The trip I took was with a group from an organization called “Men for Mission”, which my ex in-laws were part of for many years. As they grew older the trips grew less frequent. Most of the trips were work missions. The trip to Costa Rica in January 1999 was the only one I was able to join. Maybe I’ll write more about it one day. But for now, my prayer is that one of the leaders…my ex mom-in-law…will rest in the arms of Jesus knowing she ran a good race. I pray my ex mom-in-law finds peace. I pray she knows I have no more bitterness for the angst she caused in my marriage. I pray she knows I’m sorry for not being the daughter-in-law she needed. I pray she knows God redeems and restores all.

I need to pull out the old photo albums and scan some of the pictures from that trip. The people and country are beautiful. I pray the two boys I spent time with, showing and telling about the love of Jesus, are still following Him.

Some things we will only know when we cross over into heaven…

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Comfort & Healing Journal

Do you or someone you know need a little encouragement today? Are you or someone you know, experiencing the pain of loss? The holiday season can be very tough for those of us who are grieving. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or the loss of a marriage, we all grieve. Journaling through that process helps us to grow and not get stuck. Here is my latest endeavor with Thinking Tree Publishing Company. This journal helps give encouragement from others in the same situation, and helps point to the hope God gives.

Don’t give up on hope. Don’t give up on life. You are loved!

Click here: Creative Journal & Coloring Book for Comfort & Healing

Here is an excerpt:

A Letter From Nora :

When Sarah asked if I would put this book together, I thought to myself, “Sure! This one will be a piece of cake!” And then life hit…and death hit…

About three quarters of the way into this project, a close family friend committed suicide. Her death was a shock to most people because of the way she lived her life. She lived as a committed Christian, always the first to help others, and at almost 70 years of age she was a devoted grandmother. And yet, she suffered from devastating depression most of her life.

Consequently, we are all left with nothing but the “why” questions. Some things in life are unexplainable. Why would an innocent baby die? Why would I lose that perfect job? Why would my husband decide he didn’t want to be married anymore? Why did my dad leave? Why did my adult child reject me? Why would a natural disaster wipe out a lifetime of memories? Why didn’t I notice my friend was suffering before committing suicide? And the resounding question of all time: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Book written by my good friend, Mark Tabb

And…we grieve.

I have all the head knowledge, but still, I grieve. I know all the pat answers, but still, I grieve. Grief is messy. Each of us grieves differently, for we are all unique. Some people cry outwardly, others internalize. Some will hide from life, while some will busy themselves with every activity available. Experts say we experience at least two of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. In my own grief, I simply could not pick up this book on grief. Every time I wrote a sentence, the words sounded dry. I shut down my social media. I wouldn’t talk about it. I wouldn’t cry. I felt paralyzed. I just needed time. I needed time to process our loss. God allows us that time to grieve. He allowed the Israelites to grieve for 30 days after Moses died. Then he instructed Joshua to tell them to pull up their boot straps and move on into the Promise Land. God allowed Job to ask all the “why” questions when he endured suffering upon suffering, and did not count it against him.

In my processing, I remembered that as long as we live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people, bad things will happen to both the good and bad. But…good things will also happen to both the good and bad. In those times, both good and bad, I remembered that God is always good. It’s ok to be mad at God, as our children are mad at us when things don’t go their way. His grace allows us to grieve. I don’t believe God causes the bad things to happen in life, it’s simply the consequences of life in an imperfect world. Though we may never understand why /he allows bad things to happen, He always works everything out for our good. (See Romans 8:28) Though we may feel all alone in our grief, we have a creator who understands our pain and loss more than anyone.

Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes He will calm His child in the middle of the storm.

When did I start functioning again? When I got out of bed in the morning. When I put one foot in front of the other. When I took a walk with my camera, forcing myself to see God’s beauty through a different lens. When I smiled at the check-out lady because she was stressed and watched her smile back. When I took dinner to a friend who was suffering their own loss.

I was able to begin functioning again when I found that in life’s changes, I still have purpose. We are needed. We all have value and worth. We are loved by the One who created us.

In His Love,
Nora

A Grief Observed By: CS Lewis 

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Example of Journal Pages

** If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you read with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; the above excerpt from Comfort & Healing in Times of Loss can be found on Amazon here: Journal for Comfort & Healing: also, my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles Journal can be found on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles.

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Another Beloved Icon Has Passed

Hugh Heffner is gone. Most of the world was saddened by the news. We mourn the death of every soul. We know that soul will never again walk the ground we call Earth. Why would any Christian show honor to the death of an icon such as Hugh Heffner? But, didn’t our grandmothers tell us that it was bad luck to speak ill of the dead?

Ok, so I won’t speak ill of him, I’ll just let his life speak for itself. Now, I don’t ever propose to judge where a person goes when they die, for that is determined by God alone. However, we can have a pretty good guess by the fruit of their life. What legacy do they leave behind?

Hugh has a pretty broad legacy that spreads over decades of objectifying women, celebrating sexuality.  He is credited as the biggest proponent for pornography in the history of photography. That’s quite a feat! He is also credited as “having” over 1,000 women in his lifetime. And finally, he is credited to taking $8,000 in 1953 and creating the most popular men’s magazine of all time when in its peak had a net worth of $250 million! At his death, due to his extravagant lifestyle, alimony payments, and fading sales due to easy internet access, his empire had dwindled down to less than $15 million. Still a pretty sweet nest egg though.

By the world’s standards, he was a success story to follow.

If Hugh was such a success, how is the world better for his involvement? Are women respected more, or reduced to mere eye candy? Did the product his companies produced enhance or destroy families?

I’ve written about the destruction of pornography on the family (my family) in the past (here and here). I don’t want to repeat myself. Except that it seems like people just don’t get it. Or at least they don’t want to get it.

Just how far gone is our society??

 

 

Here are a couple of secular articles depicting the dark side of Hugh that I found interesting:

http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/hugh-hefner-sexist

http://time.com/4963765/no-hugh-hefner-did-not-love-women/

http://fortune.com/2017/09/29/hugh-hefner-worth/

Are we near the end?

Since people hate over the silliest of things, yes, I believe we are at the end. How much worse can it get? Jesus said when asked about the end of the age: “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” ~Matthew 24:10

Are you ready for eternity? Do you live in forgiveness or bitterness? Will that thing you harbor anger and bitterness over really matter a thousand years from now?

We have to forgive, and forgive, and forgive again no matter how much it hurts, or how much the offender continues their attack, even if they never admit to their offense. It’s hard. I have to continually remind myself of this all the time. For, I’m not perfect, just forgiven. Forgiveness is the only way to find freedom for our soul. Forgiveness does not mean the offender is not guilty of the sin, for we all give an account for every little thing we do; it just means we release to God our right for revenge. (God’s vengeance is always much better anyway.) We are then free to live in God’s peace and joy, which usually makes the offender angry because we aren’t letting them cripple us. We are free. We are ready to “meet our maker” with a clean heart. We are forgiven. Because, yes; no matter how slighted we feel, if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us. If we aren’t forgiven, we spend eternity without freedom, without light, without God…in hell.

Don’t believe me? Or, maybe you don’t believe me because you feel like I shouldn’t be forgiven because I have offended you in some way and you don’t like me. Then I say don’t. What do I know? All I am is the messenger. Here in the States, there is a bible (taken from ancient scrolls) in every corner. Look it up on the internet. All I am doing is relaying what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

What of this life will you take with you into eternity?

“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” ~Matthew 18:21-22

 

“And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” ~Revelation 21:6-8

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Irma Destroyed Our Barns!

With all the images coming out of the islands decimated by hurricane Irma, one resounding word keeps popping up in my mind: barns. In just one day, the “fun” was washed away…

washed away…

We moved off our farm in spring of 2015 and became city-dwellers. My husband’s family farmed that land for around 150 years. You would not believe the old equipment lying around…continually replaced by the new.

Needless to say, it took us more than two months to clear our junk out of the barns! We sold, gave away, and threw away…and still found more and more…stuff. :/

Though our intention was to downsize…our new house…you guessed it…bigger.

Do we ever learn??

Tearing down the old storage shed and chicken coop…

 

Parable of the Rich Fool

Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

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Pondering Thoughts on Death Today…

Just thinking…

If someone has been turned against you because of the lies of another and that person is dying, do you…

  1. Leave it lie so they can die in peace.
  2. Attempt to shed truth to the situation (without defending yourself) so they will not go to the grave hating you.

I guess the bigger question is….what will they have to answer to when they face God? Aren’t God’s children supposed to seek Truth? Does God hold us accountable if we believe negative things about a person, gossip, lies, without asking for verification?

Are there not two sides to every story?

Do I want the best for that person, or justification for myself?

Did Jesus not say to be forgiven, we have to forgive?

Is it more merciful to let someone die believing lies so as not to upset them, or to expose truth so they will at least have a chance at reconciliation before leaving this earth?

 

But, rock the boat, we don’t.

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” ~James 4:17

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” ~ Matthew 6:14-15

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” ~Matthew 18:18

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Unfaithful Lovers, Family, and Friends

Do any of us know what unfaithfulness really is? Is unfaithfulness relegated to marriage only? What actually constitutes adultery? What is the root cause? Just how truly faithful are we…and can we find forgiveness and restoration? (See my blog on forgiveness here: Unconfessed Sin ~ My Thoughts on Forgiveness)

Proverbs Devotional Day 5

“That you may preserve discretion
   and your lips may keep knowledge.” ~Proverbs 5:2

The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Proverbs primarily deal with the subject of adultery. I’m sure a lot of readers tuned out right here. But, being physically unfaithful to your mate is not the only form of adultery, for God looks upon the heart. How faithful are we in all our relationships? Are we a faithful friend, employee, or neighbor? Do any of us know what unfaithfulness really is? What actually constitutes stepping out? What is the root cause? And just how truly faithful are we…? God is a faithful God, yet we continually fall into our old self absorbed nature. Oh how thankful I am that He is also a God of grace, continually ready to forgive our unfaithfulness!

Adultery is a symptom of a much deeper problem; it’s a matter of the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery begins with an ungrateful heart, long before the physical act. Ungratefulness leads to dissatisfaction, which leads to unfaithfulness. When we fail to keep our hearts satisfied with that which God provides, we fall into a host of sins: envy, covetousness, jealousy, etc. Paul says in Romans 13 the Ten Commandments “are all summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love wants the best for others, and lives in gratitude for that which God has given us.

“lest strangers feast on your wealth
  and your toil enrich another man’s house.” ~Proverbs 5:10 (NIV)

Consequences always follow a wandering heart. When one or both in a relationship begin to lust for something outside of God’s shelter, trust is broken and the relationship is fractured. Does the wandering always have to be physical? No. Pornography is an epidemic across the globe, destroying marriages and families, for it creates a dissatisfied heart.  That aging mother with all those stretch marks, varicose veins, and sagging breasts can never compete with the airbrushed young perfection on the screen. When divorce follows, so does the division of entire families, friends, and your finances.

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets? Your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, Never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, And may you rejoice in the wife of your youth, a loving doe, a graceful deer. May her breasts satisfy you always; May you ever be captivated by her love.” ~Proverbs 5:15-19 (NIV)

Our selfish nature has us believing the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Yet, in reality, the grass is only greener on the side that is watered. Do you feel dry and disconnected from those close to you? First, water your soul with God’s Word, for His Spirit will bring peace to the deepest holes in your heart. While we have no control over the other person’s decision to water the relationship, we are responsible for our own heart’s faithfulness.

When we seek wisdom in every thought and action, the Holy Spirit is faithful to keep our thoughts pure and our hearts satisfied with His love. No matter what the temptation, be it sexual, chemical, or even shopping, pray for His Spirit to protect your heart. Gratefulness negates selfishness.

“He will die for lack of discipline,
    Led astray by his own great folly.” ~Proverbs 5:23 (NIV)

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**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

 

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Proverbs Procrastination Day 3

The Proverbs. Day 3. Chapter 3. It’s packed full of great little nuggets! Several verses have been popularly quoted throughout the millennia, especially the 5th verse…the one about leaning on our own understanding. It always amazes me when we do that since we obviously don’t know everything. But, after all, we are control freaky humans!

Two verses on this day seem to be tossed in the background:

At first glance, the verses are saying to be sure and pay our debts. Don’t be stingy. When we are diligent to pay everything we owe, not only do we show our good character, but we show honor to God in our trusting Him to meet our needs. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:25-35 that worrying is for the birds, “…Are you not of more valuable than they?” Figuratively: He loves us so much more than we tend to believe, so why do we hold onto our finances and not trust God to provide?

Yet, these verses also bring up another underlying thought. Procrastination is an all too common enemy. A definition of procrastination is to put off or to delay. Why do we put off that which we are capable of accomplishing today? Sometimes, we procrastinate out of pure laziness. Most often, we put others off out of our desire to control our situations. We believe our schedule, our money, etc. is more important than anyone else. Both procrastination and laziness are rooted in self-centeredness and pride. Most of us never thought of procrastination as a sin. We excuse ourselves with our good “intent” of giving, but only when it is convenient for us. One of the first companies I worked for had a saying, “Five minutes now will save five hours of cleanup tomorrow.” That concept is not only true in the business world; it is true in our relationships.

Gardening…Lots of hard work!

Do you have unresolved conflict with anyone? Time is not the healer; God is our healer. Ephesians 4:25-27 says to not let the sun go down on our anger, followed by saying not to give the devil a foothold. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Taking that step toward reconciliation doesn’t always mean the other person will respond, but it’s our responsibility to do our part.

We need to take an honest look at ourselves. Are we withholding money, forgiveness, or restoration from anyone? Let’s give where the giving is due, and trust the Lord to take care of the rest.

The hard stuff of discipline, forgiveness, and restoration only lasts for a moment…the rewards last an eternity.

“My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” ~Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT)

 

What are you procrastinating today?

 

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**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

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Sunday Morning Thoughts

We are not defined by our past. Yet, we do not forget our past unless of course we want to make the same mistakes over and over again. Learn from our past, trust God for our future, and live in today!
1900 Frantz Family
An Earnest Appeal for Guidance and Deliverance: A Psalm of David…

“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
In Your faithfulness answer me,
And in Your righteousness.
Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous.

For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in darkness,
Like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed.
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.

I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.

Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
To You I flee.
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.

Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake!
For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
In Your mercy cut off my enemies,
And destroy all those who afflict my soul;
For I am Your servant.”  ~Psalm 143 (NKJV)

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Top Three Leadership Qualifications: Proverbs 31

Have you followed any of the many “Leadership Guru” forums? Believe it or not, I believe all those forums can be condensed into just three points, the three taught in Proverbs 31. If we get these three points right, every step will fall into place.

Since this is the 31st day of the month…below is an excerpt from the 31st day of the Proverbs devotional I wrote while living in Ukraine. Since this chapter is such a favorite, and the last in the book, it is twice the length as the previous 30 chapters. I guess I just felt wordy on that last day! 😉 Honestly, the 31st chapter is packed full of great little nuggets!

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Day 31 ~ Proverbs 31

The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:” ~Proverbs 31:1

When most people refer to Proverbs 31, the Noble Wife is the usual commentary, describing what is commonly known as The Virtuous Woman. This section of the Proverbs is an interesting study as verses 10-31 are an alphabetic acrostic in Hebrew, comparable to Psalm 119.

The first 9 verses, however, are an isolated oracle written by a mother to her son, with the counsel given by a father listed in chapter 4. History shows the name Lemuel (meaning Devoted to God) to possibly be a name of endearment given to King Solomon by his mother, Bathsheba. Only in more modern times has the identity of the subject been questioned. Unfortunately, seeing as specific names were not given, their true origins may have been lost unto historical nonexistence.

The oracle was written as a prophetic admonition, possibly out of a mother’s desire for her son’s success. Most mothers’ counsel is derived from past experience and a desire for their children to avoid the same mistakes made from their own life. Ironically, the three pieces of advice this mother gave were the very actions that eventually brought King Solomon to his ruin: flippant relationships, self-indulgence, and a slothful attitude toward injustice. Bathsheba would have been well equipped to warn of the consequences of these sins; the very sins of which she and King David, Solomon’s father, were mercifully forgiven and restored. Centuries later, our leaders continue to embellish the same sins. We are still human. Her advice to her son, the King, could most certainly be applied not only to our government leaders of today, but to anyone in a leadership position, especially the family father.

The influential role of the mother has been greatly diminished in modern times. While the role of the father has become known for absenteeism, most people do not realize the correlation to the diminishing role of the mother. With more than a third of American households being raised by a single parent, mostly by the mother, great concern is growing over the moral decline in our society. Our children are raised without the stability of the security in a family unit, resulting in higher poverty, crime, drug usage, and lack of education. The issue is not whether the home is run by a single dad or a single mom, the issue is that neither parent is a constant in the home. Unfortunately, in modern society, most two-parent homes have two-parent incomes. The children are left to raise themselves through babysitters and day-care.

I find the addition of a woman’s instruction in a man’s world to be very comforting. Solomon was attributed the wisest man of all time therefore his mother’s penned words must have been very influential to be included in the ancient scrolls. Never underestimate the hand that rocks the cradle. Most of scripture was written by men and toward men. Yet this passage contains the words of a woman giving instruction to her son, a man, a King. With such high importance placed on one oracle, it is disheartening that her words fall on deaf ears to most of our leaders today. Corruption in high places has been at work since the beginning of mankind.

“What, my son?                                                       
     And what, son of my womb?
          And what, son of my vows?” ~Proverbs 31:2

In older translations, the chapter begins with his mother asking the question, “What?” What are you doing? Are you paying attention? Listen! Since the time-frame is not given as to when in Solomon’s life the oracle was written, it is possible his mother saw in his youth warning signs of potential problems. We all have tendencies toward certain temptations. Some temptations are more common in higher positions or stations in society. This mother wished to get her son’s attention to bring a warning for pitfalls of someone of his status. This mother very wisely was teaching him that the responsibility of a King is not to be taken lightly. In James 3, we are told that teachers will receive a stricter judgment. How much more for a King? In 2nd Peter 2, a description is given of the consequences of false teachers who lead people to destruction. Her desire was for her son to lead responsibly.

“Do not give your strength to women,
Nor your ways to that which destroys kings.” ~Proverbs 31:3

The passage gives three separate pieces of advice for successful leadership; relationship, sobriety, and advocate. The first piece of advice has been ignored by politicians and pastors alike all throughout history. Many a mighty man has fallen from the public eye due to sexual indiscretions. With the introduction of the Internet, pornography is the number one ‘secret’ sin of today’s clergy. The temptation can be overwhelming. Bathsheba knew this first hand. Bathsheba and King David’s indiscretion resulted in two deaths, a divided family, and a lost kingdom. While their hearts were forgiven and restored in relationship with God, the consequences can be felt to this day. We need to be very careful and selective with whom we are in relationship.

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
     It is not for kings to drink wine,
Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
     Lest they drink and forget the law,
And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.
     Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to those who are bitter of heart.
     Let him drink and forget his poverty,
And remember his misery no more.” ~Proverbs 31:4-7

The second admonition is in mind altering substances. This piece of advice should be simple common sense. But even in our society today, drunken parties for politicians are the norm. Will a people put trust in a leader who is not clear minded while they are issuing judgments, decrees, and laws? Without morality we have only chaos. Alcoholism and self-medicating are rampant. She points out that those who are perishing or are in anguish drink to forget their troubles, though her urging to give strong drink is not for a King. Her son has a greater responsibility than to be self-focused. A good King, Ruler, or Teacher, a good Parent, is focused on those whom the Lord has put under their care. From the President/King all the way down to the parent in the poorest family, the quality of leadership is destroyed when alcohol or drugs control the mind. Just as a King is responsible for the condition of the Kingdom, Dad and Mom are responsible for the condition of the family.

“Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
  Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy.” ~Proverbs 31:8-9

The final plea this wise mother instructs her son is simply to do good. I believe she knew from experience within her own family how imperative righteous ruling is. James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Do we sit by idly, being more concerned about our own skin, watching those under us get trampled? Do we use our position to aid those less fortunate? Most Kings and leaders throughout history succumbed to the influence of power followed by arrogance. Self-serving leaders support only those who are able to give back to their establishment or campaign. But to the little people, the poor and needy, or the unjustly charged, these leaders are mute and turn a deaf ear. Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first. If we are in a place of position, God honors the humble in heart and giving in spirit.

Whether we are the ruler of a nation, or a stay-at-home mom, leadership comes with great responsibility. Lemuel’s mother very wisely conveyed the three most important aspects of righteous leadership: stay away from physical indulgence, keep a clear head, and use the position to benefit others.

“Learn to do good;
     Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
        Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.”
~Isaiah 1:17

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**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

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17th day Devotional…

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, below is an excerpt of the 17th devotional of my book I wrote about in my last post. I love Saint Patrick’s Day! Not just because I am of Irish descent, but because of the heart of the holiday. While most here in America use the holiday to drink whiskey and green beer with the intention of getting plastered, the holiday actually began with a slave from Wales, England, whose parents were from Rome, to bring good deeds and hope to a pagan bound culture. I hope you like today’s devotional…

Day 17 ~ Proverbs 17

“Better is a dry morsel with quietness,
Than a house full of feasting with strife.” Proverbs 17:1

At least six verses of Proverbs 17 speak directly to the family. King David is my hero! I love reading in 1st and 2nd Samuel the account of David’s life. My spirit is lifted and heightened every time I read David’s Psalms. More than anyone who ever lived, David was attributed as a man after God’s own heart. Yet, because of King David’s own sins (2 Samuel 12:10), the sword never left his house. His was one of the most dysfunctional families in history. His wives were…well, he had way too many cooks in the same kitchen. His children lied, cheated, stole, raped, and murdered…each other! Absalom, his oldest son, conspired to overthrow the kingdom and kill his own father. If Hollywood were to film the actual events of David’s life the movie would be released with an “R” rating or worse! His children grew up in wealth, yet had more drama than a soap-opera!

“A foolish son is a grief to his father,
And bitterness to her who bore him.” ~Proverbs 17:25

Though King David saw his children make horrible decisions, even unto death, he grieved for his children. David recognized in 2nd Samuel 16:5-14 that the calamity he experienced was due to his own sin; calamity prophesied by the Prophet Nathan in chapter 12. The Apostle Paul admonishes fathers in Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Children learn as the example they are given, not the words spoken. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary states: “The fathers are specified as being the fountains of domestic authority. Fathers are more prone to passion in relation to their children then mothers, whose fault is rather over-indulgence.” Fathers, do you project anger or ridicule your children? Then you can’t be upset if they show outbursts of anger. Mothers, do you belittle or lie to or about your children? Then you can’t be upset when they despise you. Do we project indifference to our children? Then we can’t be upset if they show indifference to our beliefs. This is what King David experienced. He was busy elsewhere. He showed his children contradiction. As a result, they rebelled, bringing humiliation and destruction to their own family.

“He who begets a scoffer does so to his sorrow,
And the father of a fool has no joy.” ~Proverbs 17:21

The dictionary describes scoffer as; someone who expresses mockery, derision, doubt, or derisive scorn; to jeer. We all occasionally fail. Do you fall into that category? Out of your own insecurity, do you make fun of others in hopes to elevate yourself? When your derogatory jabs are questioned, do you laughingly claim the recipient of your mockery is too sensitive and you were only joking? I don’t believe people realize their own divisiveness. When a family falls into the habit of squabbling, no meal is joyful. Sometimes, the test of Christian love is greater within our own families. Oh to love with the love of 1st Corinthians 13; “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” What would happen in our families if we took just one of these attributes? Kindness? Hope? Love?

“Children’s children are the crown of old men,
And the glory of children is their father.” ~Proverbs 17:6

**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

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My first book!

So I wrote a book…a devotional…and actually published it! My writings usually sit hidden in a drawer, but while living in Ukraine last year, my friend, Sarah, encouraged me to join her in her publishing company, The Thinking Tree Publishing Company, LLC, and put some of them in print. Sarah is a fabulous illustrator! Oh how I wish I had Sarah’s artistic talent…but then again, God gave me my own talents to use. The difference is…she has used hers greatly while mine have sat hidden in a drawer. But is that what God wants for us? According to Matthew 25 he doesn’t…

So, in my free time, I dusted off my notes and we teamed up to create a devotional that can be doodled!

Since this is the 14th day of the month, here is an excerpt of the 14th devotional. First though, read the actual Proverb from the bible before reading the devotional. Then, if you have a copy of the book (link below), you will enjoy doodling on Sarah’s illustrations! I hope you like it…

Day 14 ~ Proverbs 14

“The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.” ~Proverbs 14:10

How can we truly know another person, except by what we see and hear? Sometimes it’s easy to assess what is in a person’s heart by their countenance. We can assume a person is joyful at that given second by the belly laugh filling the air. We can assume a person is sad, hurt, or bitter when we see buckets of tears flowing down their cheeks. But, can we presume to know the reasons or the source? All too common, seemingly happy people (such as actor Robin Williams) take their own life out of deep depression. We are often too quick to make assumptions about a person or situation before we see all sides of a matter (see Proverbs 18:17 & 25:8). Yet, in our pride, it’s so very easy to assume we know what another person is thinking or feeling. Most of the time, our pride prevents us from simply asking, and therefore our reactions to that person will be unfitting.

“A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.” ~Proverbs 14:5

What happens when we assume to know the heart of another and treat them accordingly? If I see someone come through the door with a scowl across their forehead, should I assume they are angry with someone? And then, to top that off, they complain about the blue skies. Should I assume they are bitter or nit-picking? How do we not know that they simply woke up with a migraine headache or have recently suffered great loss? In our humanness, we are all occasionally guilty of these kinds of assumptions. When we fail to seek truth, we are uttering lies. The old Indian Proverb holds true: “Just walk a mile in his moccasins, before you abuse, criticize and accuse.” (taken from the poem Judge Softly, written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895). Yet, if we walk the same path, even then, do we deeply understand the heart of another?

“A sound heart is life to the body,
but envy is rottenness to the bones.” ~Proverbs 14:30

On the flip side, making assumptions on another person’s joy is just as harmful. How often do we reject people because we believe their lives to be ideal? We become envious of their happiness while not being concerned with knowing the road they traveled to live in their joy. Often times, we are shocked upon hearing a mild-mannered sweet Christian’s testimony to find she has a shockingly checkered past. Jesus says in Luke 7:47, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” (NIV) Do we rejoice with those who rejoice? Or do we allow our own self-centeredness to prevent us from being genuinely happy for other people’s success and joy.

Our heart knows our own bitterness. We deeply feel emotion when we have loved another. People are fallible beings. When we place expectations on another based on our own desires, we will be hurt. People will always at one time or another let us down. But we are not alone in our bitterness, or our joy. Jesus says in Matthew 6:8, “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Why expect strangers, or even those we know, to share in our joys and/or sorrows when we have a God who knows every deep hurt, feeling, and thought we’ve ever had? A sound heart comes when we let go of our expectations of others and place our hope and trust in God, the one who most knows our heart.

“Those who fear the Lord are secure;   
 he will be a refuge for their children.” ~Proverbs 14:26

**If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you read with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles Journal can be found on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles.

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Beautifully Created

A present from my dad…
Dad's gift

Do you see the slight girl
with the hesitant smile?
The one in the middle
with the ancient hairstyle?

Oh the secrets she hides
in pale haunting green eyes.
Her stoic demeanor
lend a blissful disguise.

Little girl in my past,
I see your reflection.
Masking painful tears from
your Daddy’s rejection.

Beautiful creation,
though the world be unjust.
God’s love and affection
hold your refuge and trust.

~Me

Hurt people hurt people. The cycle continues. So long as there is sin in this world, there will be injustice. We will be hurt and rejected by people…because people are imperfect. Oh how hard it is to release others of our own unrealistic expectations! But to do so will allow us the freedom to love freely. When our identity is in the Lord, we can have faith that we are totally accepted, cherished, loved.

“Although my father and my mother have forsaken me,
yet the Lord will take me up and adopt me as His child.” ~Psalm 27:10

It’s so hard for us humans to accept that no matter what we do 10% of the population will not like us…even some within our own family; even Jesus was rejected by his family! We buy into the lie that we have to be the best and accepted by the world’s standards to be of value. The book of Ecclesiastes (the most seemingly depressing book of the whole bible) teaches that “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” God created us to be a reflection of himself. He made us beautiful. Even the “ugly” people by the world’s standards are beautifully created; fearfully and wonderfully made.

“For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.” ~Psalm 139:13-14

When we understand the depth of love God has for us, and we understand that He is our Abba God, our Daddy, we find His strength and joy. Our carnal nature continually pushes us to take control of our situations through revenge, bitterness, and broken relationships. Pull from the strength only the Lord can give. Let us worship with joy and let His love flow through our hearts as we wait patiently for his will in our lives.

“Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!” ~Psalm 27:14

Forget about the negatives in the past, don’t worry about the stresses of tomorrow, just live in the beauty of today. You. Are. Beautiful.

Psalm 27.10

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.” ~Isaiah 49:15-16

“He has made everything beautiful in its time…I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

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The Brightest Star

I wrote this poem a few years back for a very special daughter of one of my best friends after the children’s Christmas program at our church. She always had a way of putting life into perspective…

1982

The Brightest Star

A baby born to parents young,
just starting out in life.
She formed a bond of love so tight,
baby, husband, and wife.

All American family,
the world was at their hand.
They dreamed of trips, the three of them,
the ocean and the sand.

The doctors’ words were cruel and hard,
“She’ll never be like those
who run and play, who laugh and sing,
her kind we will dispose.”

Then love broke in their aching hearts,
for quiet answers lie
in Special babies God has blessed,
not the world’s reply.

While all the children shine like stars
on Christmas program night,
this special child the Lord did see
in her the brightest light.

For from her eyes God’s kingdom shines,
her silent lips proclaim,
to ‘sign’ the words from palm to palm,
His praises to exclaim.

Yet through the words she could not sing,
His love she longed to tell.
From palm to palm she ‘signed’ His name,
and Glory on her fell.

June 1984

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Holiday Grace

Thanksgiving & Christmas Thankfulness…My little Speech? Statement? Declaration? My final breath? 😉

I’m so thankful for a faith rooted in love not terror; in life not death. I’m so thankful God allowed me to see him through His Spirit…and not in the examples or interpretations of earthly fallible men. I’m so thankful God gave us his Holy Spirit and his Word for guidance, strength, and comfort, and for the remaining churches that love the outcast like Jesus did (John 4).

I’m so thankful I don’t attend a church that doesn’t allow anyone older than the millennial generation in worship band/choir, but rather exonerates all walks of life (1 Kings 12:13). I’m so thankful I don’t attend a church that doesn’t allow newer, timeless, music for fear of letting go of traditions or just plain being stuck in the 80’s (Job 32:8-9). I’m so thankful I don’t attend a church that clings to suit & tie & stocking hosiery instead of acknowledging that man looks at the outward appearance while God looks at the heart and wants our worship to be a place where people can be real, be accepted, and loved in ordinary jeans (1 Samuel 16:7: Matt 23:27).

I’m so thankful that even though I will never live up to the expectations of people who are so quick to believe the worst, I am forgiven and accepted by a God who loves me just as I was created (John 3:16-17). I’m so thankful for the friends God has placed in my life, people who would not listen to negativity, realizing that to believe hearsay without verification is the same as the original telling of the lie, for lies are only for enemies (Eph 4).

I’m so thankful for my husband and the restoration God has worked through our lives. We are not perfect, but we choose not to control each other, but rather to let God be in control; we choose to respect instead of belittle; we choose to love in spite of our baggage.

Finally, I’m so very thankful for the children God allowed me to birth, even thru the distance, disagreements, and miss-communications, they all know their Momma’s love will never end. My prayer for you is that your road will wind its way to the Lord; that you will always seek Truth; that your faith will be your own, and to know that… “our struggle is not against flesh and blood {people}, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12).

Most of all, never ever forget…”nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

That is all. (This is about as mushy as I’ll ever get….)


~Nora, Daughter of Abba God, Wife, Mom, Friend.

Jesus is the Light

Your Daily Proverb ~ 6:16-19

To those with an understanding heart…this scripture needs no explanation:

There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and one who sows discord among brothers.

~Proverbs 6:16-19

Destruction

…destruction…

 

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave

Piano Man 5

Music is subjective, just like food. I absolutely hate peas. My husband feels the same about onions. I absolutely love onions. My husband loves peas. Different likes and dislikes…neither one of us is in the wrong. We were created diverse creatures by the same loving God.

But lyrics…

When the lyrics are seasoned with God’s word (and not taken out of context), the music is immortal, just as His word is immortal. “Redeemed” is one such song.

The definition of Redeemed is an exchange: to free, liberate, rescue, save, to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.

In the second verse he writes:

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret

This song relates more to my life than most. For years I struggled to be the perfect little Christian so God would actually want me. After spending most of my childhood feeling used up and worthless and spending most of my adult life relating to the rejection and outcast of the woman at the well, my name; my identity was bound in shame and regret. Even after accepting Christ, I was still haunted by those ugly ghosts that lived in my past. I was bound up in shackles of all my failures, as the song so eloquently writes. I knew God is love. I knew God loves everyone. But because of my shame and regret, I believed God’s love was for everyone else.

I then read the words of King David, my hero, the chief of sinners whom God loved most, in Psalm 27:10 which says, “Though even my father and mother reject me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.”

The antonym for redeemed is abandon. God in His mercy did not abandon me. No, not even me. Like the unloved woman at the well, he gave me a new life, a new name, and a hope that will carry me home. No. I’m not perfect. I’m not liked by everyone. But I’m not the same and I shook off those heavy chains of shame and regret ‘cause He’s not done with me yet!

If He gives hope and restoration even to someone like me (and I could tell you stories that would make your head spin), he will and is longing to set you free as well. We can stop fighting on our own, for at the cross he wiped away every stain and the fight’s already been won! I am redeemed and He set me free!

Click here: Official video of Big Daddy Weave – “Redeemed“. 
Writer(s): Michael Weaver, Benji Cowart
Copyright: Word Music Inc., Word Music Inc. O.B.O. Weave Country LLC

Piano Man 4

Saturday…the day in-between…

The space between. That very long Saturday. The day between what Christians call Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This year…a full moon…a blood moon.

Moonrise (4a)

Jesus was a very common name back then. In today’s world, John or Jim or Bill are the names more will answer to when heard…not so much Jesus. Scripture indicates by society’s standards, he was just average, someone who would not stand out in a crowd. Yet, he was the establishment’s biggest threat. So they killed him. The high Judge, Pilot, proclaimed him innocent. And yet, they determined to silence his existence. For such an average man, he sure made an impact on the world. The establishment fears truth. And this man, Jesus, was truth. He was God in human form.

All this drama took place on Friday. There were parties full of dissension, convictions, and death. The day has since transformed into huge Hollywood productions. Even today, Friday seems to be a day of drama. It’s the last day of the typical work week and invariably everything will go wrong at 4:55. It’s date night and invariably we will have nothing to wear and no money to spend. Yes, Friday will forever be a day of drama.

But…what about Saturday? It’s the day in-between. It’s a day of waiting. Most churches have services on Good Friday, and then again on Sunday. But Saturday? No, not Saturday.

Every farmer can relate to a time of waiting. The seed is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. What about summer? No, not summer. In our impatience, we tend to forget about the time in-between. We sow a seed and expect immediate results. In Deuteronomy 7:21-23, God was leading his people into the promise land, but ordered a time of waiting. He could have driven out the heathen nations immediately, but the immediate was not in their best interest. Usually, the immediate is not in our best interest either. As with the farmer’s crops, people also need time to grow. Most of the time, we will not understand the reasons for the wait until we have landed on the other side.

Most people find the perseverance to reach maturity the most difficult. In James 1 we are taught the wait through trials matures and completes our character. As my husband and I are embarking on a new chapter in our lives, we have had a long few months of wait. I have felt my life in complete limbo lately. My Saturday has turned into several Saturdays. This is very aggravating for someone who needs her ducks in a row. But, God always has a purpose for every wait. This past week has been filled with two funerals. Two friends’ lives were snuffed out from cancer. I watched their Saturdays’ wait; waiting for tests, waiting for treatments, waiting for death. But in God’s perfect timing, we were able to be available for our friends, whereas if our move would have occurred on my timing, those opportunities would have been missed and relationships lost.

I can’t even imagine how Jesus’ followers felt on their Saturday. Oh what a day of confusion that must have been. As difficult as our times of waiting has been, I cannot fathom the vast emotions of everyone from the Disciples to the Pharisees. His followers waited in fear of the establishment while the establishment waited in fear of exposure. Neither knew at the time how the story would end. They could only wait.

But after the wait…

Oh yes, Sunday…a breath of fresh air! Although attempts were made to cover the evidence, too many people saw, too many people knew. The grave coughed up the dead. This average man, Jesus, conquered what no one else would attempt. He rose on the first day of the week, on a Sunday. He took on humanities curse and broke through the gates of hell. He came back. He walked with his people. He left his Spirit with us. We can relax. Humanity now has its solution. The drama is complete. We can spend Sunday afternoons in leisure. Everything is finished. God declared a Sabbath, a day of rest, so we reflect on Him in worship. Sundays are for rejuvenation. Yes, Sunday will forever be a day of new beginnings.

Can we trust Him during our wait? Believe that God works everything for our good. Look for your Sunday. For there you will find God’s grace. No matter the trials or persecution, the Lord brings peace…even in death. For in death, we find life.

“Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” ~Luke 24:36

Woodbury Church Steeple

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Death Death and More Death

Stop talking about death as a finality! Mourning is only for those left behind. For those who know our Creator and who accept Christ, we simply begin a new chapter…a heavenly chapter where God wipes every tear from our eyes. We need not fear a new beginning. Fear resides with the unknown, an unwillingness to let go of the mortal. Let the dead bury the dead…“To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

 

Revelation 21.4

 

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To the other side…

It’s funny how a glance in a photo, the scent of an old shoe, or the touch of a wool jacket will bring back a memory or two from a far distant world. To see faces from long ago, only to feel the joy, laughter, and the pain once again. In the recesses of the mind, dark cellars were left untouched.

Emptiness

My feet brush soft grass.
Stillness fills damp air.
Bones lie six feet under.
No hope for a prayer.

Existence disappears.
Waters rage in life’s sin.
Innocent dreams are dead.
Wrongs are silent within.

The passion for love
is lost in life’s yesterday.
The gravedigger rests
as dreams and hope decay.

Me

A child wistfully played. With innocence she laughed through each day. Her holidays were filled with anticipation and wonder. Each day began with sunshine breaking through her window. With her siblings she romped and played, growing with promises of happiness.

At daylight she realized Heaven was not on this Earth.

Her family moved as often as the military gave orders. But that didn’t bother her. She just took life as it came. With each move came a new room, new school, and new friends.

The day finally came when their military life ended and home became the region of their relatives. The first year or so was thrilling as she reconnected with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents; relationships that she was not able to develop while abroad.

Her tenth birthday approached with great anticipation. Her aunt made a cake with a Cinderella carriage on top, complete with her name written in sweet icing. Her new-found friends from houses up and down the street, along with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents came to celebrate with her.

The details of the actual party faded as memories do with time. Nothing extraordinary occurred. The guests arrived, visited, played games, blew out candles, and ate cake…nothing noteworthy. Only it was her day.

As with every event, all things eventually come to an end. The guests leave full of sweets, and happy to have enjoyed her party. The gifts were opened and the wrapping paper found its way to the trash. A few family members lingered, the men lazily chatted in lawn chairs, and the women cleared and cleaned up the birthday residue in the warm July back yard. As she carried her treasured presents to her room, she noticed Grandpa sitting at the kitchen table sneaking one last piece of cake. He sheepishly grins and asked her if she wanted just one more bite. She supposed since her mom was in the back yard cleaning up, she won’t discover he spoiled her dinner with all the sweets. He pulled her on his lap with one arm while scraping a big spoon full of cake with the other. With her mouth full of sweetness, she felt him…pulsing under her lap. Instantly, she knew in her spirit something was not quite right. The cake in her mouth suddenly tasted like sponge. When she tried to climb down off his lap, he held her waist tighter, pulling her to him, sliding his hand – that seconds ago held her cake – between her panties and her…

The above is all I can stomach writing. Oh, the family secrets we keep. Oh, the lives destroyed by those who take innocence for their own pleasure. Her childhood is gone when the joy of being a treasured present is replaced with the worthlessness of discarded wrapping paper. The worst part of the offense is not just the offense itself, but in the reaction and rejection of those close by when the horrors are revealed. Most family members are more worried about their own reputation, especially amongst their religious church mates, so they set out to silence the drama. They hush when she enters the room, like she would not know where their conversation dwelt. Then there are those who cannot let anyone else have more focus than they, countering with their own exaggerated stories purposed to minimize all others. “Oh, that’s nothing, why when I…” Her pain was irrelevant. The path is set through rejection and bitterness, walls of self-protection go up, and thus the victim becomes the villain. Hurt people, hurt people.

I could state all the stats, all the end results, all the laws, but that would be a waste of time. Most intelligent people inherently know the consequences of molestation on its victim, on the families, and on their future relationships. Most perpetrators, rarely a stranger, are fully aware of the damage they cause innocent victims. Yet, it is like a cigarette, once addicted, they just do not have the capabilities of putting that smoke down. Their addiction rules their conscience, even when their exhale is damaging those around them. Their conscience is seared by their physical desires. And the victim is powerless, with no recourse, with no justice. A cancer of bitterness from a life lost burns deep inside.

Where is love?

Where is justice?

Where is freedom?

While the victim hides the hurt, masks the pain, the locked-up memory turns into bitterness. That bitterness evolves into anger, an anger that rages inside. The victim tries to escape the memories, the snide remarks from those closest to her, and the lie of worthlessness given to her by the negative voices in her head. Vengeance and revenge sets in the heart. Self-destruction becomes her way of life. The victim becomes the villain, striking first to avoid being struck. Alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. only leave an empty hole. All she wants is acceptance, to be innocent again, and to be loved…proper. Turning to people to fill her needs and heal her wounds inadvertently causes all the more heartache…so the walls are built, high, never to let anyone emotionally touch her…ever again.

Some stories need to be locked up…imprisoned in the deep recesses of the mind. Evil is a hard pill to stomach, unless one is evil. Once the door is opened, evil will slither its tentacles through your soul. Though we are warned to guard our hearts and minds, our curiosity temps us toward the dark pit.

Some stories need to be told. In 2 Corinthians 1:4 we are encouraged to give encouragement. God comforts us and in turn we comfort others. We read for one of two reasons…for self-help or to escape. God wants to use a tale to benefit others. Countless lives have been changed through the testimony of those who have been through the fire and back.

This…is one such story…

 

Oh, but the longing…the spirit that won’t rest…the Spirit that gently pulls at her heart…

“Let it go.” he says.

“Oh, but you don’t understand!” she says.

“Yes, I do. I know your hurting heart…for I created you. You are my child and you are beautiful.” he says.

“Then why did you create me to live through this very ugly life?” she cries.

“The world was born with beauty, but sin painted dark black paint over earth’s canvas. While you are in the world, I have provided a resting place in me. Because of my love for you, I sent my son to experience the same sin known to man. He was able to shed blood to break through the bondage of sin, of pain, of oppression, so that you, through him, will have access to Me.” he said.

Forgiveness? But why should God forgive someone so disgusting? Why would He in his perfection accept someone so imperfect? Oh, but the longing, the longing for beauty, the longing for wholeness.

“OK Lord, what do I need to do? I need you to take away this pain. I want you to fill the hole in my heart. Will you even accept me?” she asked.

“Yes, I accept and love you just as I created you. But…you need to forgive.” he said firmly.

“Oh, no. Not in a million years! Do you know what they did to me?” she screamed.

“Yes, I saw. And I saw what they did to my son. And to those who asked and believed in him, I forgave.” he quietly explained.

“But why? How could you?” she cried in exasperation.

His reply was strong, firm, yet compassionate; “Forgiveness is the only way to heal your heart. Let go of your longing for retribution. Leave your vengeance to me. All will one day be held accountable. But, as long as you hold on to your bitterness you prevent my spirit from filling your soul. Unforgiveness, bitterness, and hatred, are rooted in sin, and I am unable to dwell where sin abides. No matter how small the sin; sin is sin. How can I forgive you if you cannot forgive others? Do you want others to treat you with unforgiveness? If you believe I am truth, then trust. Release to me every painful memory, every guilt, and every wrong path you took. Let me wash through you with my pure Holy Spirit, giving you a new life, with a clean heart. I will be your peace, your source of love.” he proclaimed, he promised, he purposed.

Quietly, his light pierced through my dark heart, releasing me from my own oppression.

Joy…such a small and simple word…and yet, so full. Thank you Lord.

My Prayer

Forgive me my complacency
Release my life from apathy.
To you I come on bended knee
Lord consecrate my soul to thee.

Forgive the heart that aches for you
Your mercy left my soul brand new.
I lift the heart you cleansed from sin
Restore to me the Joy within.

I cry, My God I long for you!
Your spirit come as morning dew.
Lord cover me with endless grace
I find my strength in your embrace.

Forgive me my complacency
Your burning fire embrace in me.
In your pure love I will enjoy
Your promised hope and perfect Joy.

Me

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The comfort Isaiah gave…

If there is one person I could pick to meet in heaven, that would be Isaiah. I’ve often wondered what he looks like. In my obscure mind, my image of our heavenly bodies is of an age of perfection. Mine? Well…if there ever was an age where my body was at its best, it would have to be before kids! For men though, they seem to mature much later than women…in more ways than just the physical. Don’t mock…that’s a proven psychological fact, per the so-called experts! Just look at Hollywood. Women are done by the time they are old enough to attend the R-rated movie they just starred in! Men? Well…I’ll have to save my comments about Sean Connery for another post… 😉

Elihu said in Job 32:9 “It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.” Meaning, even though he gives the impression of being aged, Isaiah could well have been a young man. Proverbs 16:31 says “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Did Isaiah have gray hair? Was he bald? Most women lost their “crowns” when Miss Clairol came to town!

These are just rambling thoughts. We really don’t know. Some days I hate the loss of anonymity with the discovery of digital photography. Centuries from now our offspring will look back at us and say, “Geez, could she wear anything more outdated than that?”

Without knowing the nature of their physical appearance, their words are profound to a much greater degree. We are able to hone in on the message rather than be distracted by crooked noses or dumbo ears. Applying the message to our lives is their ultimate goal. Maybe that is the reason God did not allow our brains to comprehend the technical until this century. Could be?

The message Isaiah conveyed in chapter 54 has been life to my soul for the past 15 years or so.

I am fine without a man around. As a child, my dad was not around much. Although it’s not his fault and I do not blame or hold anything against him, it was just the way life was. He was gone at sea for months or in Nam during the Navy days. When civilian life hit, he always worked two and three jobs, and always second shift, with me in school during the day. I remember most of his time at home on Sunday afternoons taking a nap in his recliner. Through my 20’s, my ex-husband also worked evenings/nights, leaving me alone to care for the kids. Needless to say, I learned early not to physically depend on any man.

Yet, I secretly yearned for that umbrella; that sort of protection that a “man” covering provided. I think every woman does. It’s in our nature, no matter how we fight to be independent. So we seek out people in our lives to provide the kind of emotional security no man has ever been equipped to provide. Men search too…just in different areas. They seek security in their careers or physical escapades. I think we humans tend to seek to fill our holes in places that are temporal or were not created to “complete” or make us whole.

Oh my, the relief when I first read Isaiah 54 and realized I already had that protector! That chapter was an uncanny reflection of my life, written centuries ago! I was that bride who married young, only to be rejected. But God spread my “tents” and filled them with His little blessings. He has proven over and over that He, and He alone, is my provider. He has never failed me. He takes care of me…of me!

A few years ago I finally quit expecting others to fill only that which God is able. My fulfillment is not their responsibility! No, I don’t need a husband, kids, family, friends, job, house, dog, or cat to fulfill my deepest longing, that longing for security. The things of this world are temporal. Only God, our creator, can provide the eternal. Only He is able to flow his Spirit through our soul and bring wholeness!

My life did not follow the path I planned, but God in his mercy restored to me that which the locus had eaten (Joel 25). My faith is in God, my protector, my provider, my promise. He has also restored to me an earthly husband to be my umbrella while here on earth. I now have a beautiful foretaste of the security we will one day experience in our eternal home.

I now have hope.

253b

~Isaiah 54

 

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 27:1 (Do you really know tomorrow?)

I shared this Proverb on my FB last month:

Your Daily Proverb:
“Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.” 27:1
~Six years ago this am… 😦

I only call it “Daily” for the 31 verses, not because I post one daily. That would be so very irritating…unless, of course, my FB or Blog was solely dedicated to Proverbs. I wonder if I would have fewer followers…or more? I think I’ll just stick to my randomness. 😉

That morning, I didn’t even read past the first verse. I usually don’t on this day of January each year. Next year, I think I’ll leave that book alone. Some anniversaries are simply too painful.

We know the birth of one baby will change the whole dynamics of an entire family, no matter how many down the line. So tell me…why would the death of one child, even more so, change the dynamics of an entire family…even the extended family?

We love. We grow. We build our world. Since you don’t miss what you don’t know, if it is never there, we never love. When we love, and that love is ripped from us, our world is full of empty holes.

But oh, to cherish the memories of love…

It is said the only constant in life is change. I don’t know if change in and of itself is either good or bad. It just is. The insecure and fearful will fight change. The stubborn and controlling will fight change. But sometimes…the very tired will grow weary of change.

Life can crush our spirit. With change, God can refresh our circumstances…and our spirit. Time does heal…along with the strength of God’s word to lean on. With each death a new era is born. With each change a new hope is secured.

Embrace the here and now. Let go of the past. Give God the future. For…we never know what a day may bring…

Oh how I miss that little Sunshine on my Shoulder...

Oh how I miss that little Sunshine on my Shoulder…

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Approval-seekers and Self-pleasers

My husband and I had a little discussion the other day about people-pleasers being one and the same as self-pleasers. We brought up a lot of controversial points in today’s world, so he suggested I put it in a blog.

The people-pleasing theme has run through many of my posts. This may be a reiteration of a post I wrote about people-pleasers: here. I also wrote a post on why people don’t like us: here, so I thought I had it covered. But…can you be a people-pleaser without being a self-pleaser? In my prior posts, I eluded to people-pleasers being self-pleasers. Are they one and the same? My question in my overly analytical mind is; why do we want to please everyone else?

With God, everything is a matter of the heart; even when we are pleasing Him.

We must ask ourselves:

  • Is it possible to please others and/or self and still please God?
  • Do we do our good little deeds for God or to feel good about ourselves?
  • Do we want to puff up others, or do we want to puff up ourselves?
  • When caving to the will of others; is our desire to bring them fulfillment or are we seeking their approval?
  • When seeking the approval of others; is not the seeking for our own satisfaction?

Approval-seekers are self-pleasers.

We have begun to wonder if some sort of revival is beginning to break out over our country. Fence riders are beginning to fall off. Eventually, everyone will have to choose one side or the other so we might as well start now!

One of those fences is full of people-pleasers. I know of at least two churches where the preachers taught on the subject just this last Sunday. Lately, I’ve seen several articles, posts, blogs, etc. on this subject. Hordes of books have been written on people pleasing; approval addiction; and boundaries in the past few years. Some of the hype could be the psychological-money-making-bandwagon. But when the phenomenon reaches several pulpits, we need to take notice.

When revival and/or trials hit, God calls his people to step up to the spiritual (not religious) plate. He said we are not able to live by double-standards. God is not only love, not only grace, but God is truth. Where do we get our screwed up lives from? Lies. Deceit. Lies. Hypocrisy is rooted in lies. Double standards are rooted in lies. And believe it or not, people-pleasers are rooted in lies…for by pleasing one, another must suffer.

Maybe God is fed up with our fence riding and is finally pushing us to stand for integrity. Maybe he is building character in his children to enable us to survive the hard times most are predicting. I don’t believe for one second the martyred Christians in Egypt were seeking the approval of man. How will we react when evil hits our doorstep? You’ve heard the line in the old Aaron Tippin country song, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Maybe God just wants our yes to be yes and our no to be no (even in the little things!) so we will have the character needed to withstand anything the enemy throws at us! Jesus said in John 5:41, “Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me.” Maybe we should follow his example.

God’s approval is all we need. Yet, we tend to have an unhealthy fear of man instead of a spirit of love and respect for God.

Isaiah 51.12

Lord, forgive us for our apathy. Help us to follow truth, no matter who it hurts. Because following truth is following you. Help us to stand for that which is right. Because in standing for that which is right, we are standing in love for all.

Isaiah 1.17 Seek Justice

 

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Obsessing the setting sun…

Why are we attracted to the beauty of the setting sun? Or, for those who can stomach opening your eyes before a couple pots of coffee, the rising sun?

Painted by God in 2009

Painted by God in 2009

God’s creation. It’s what we are. God put the beauty of His creation in our eyes…in us.

I love taking pictures of sunsets. Just a thought…but how many different ways can one photograph a sunset? If you’ve seen one…you’ve seen them all…

No…just like you and me…each is unique. Each sunset is written with the breath of God’s beauty. Just as we never tire of hearing our spouse say “I love you” we never tire of hearing God say “I love you” with each sunset he sends…

Sunset painted today...

Sunset painted today…

 

God’s love never changes…

 

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(These are my pictures…you are welcome to share because I love to spread smiles!)

Your Daily Proverb ~ 25:4 (Burned by the Silversmith!)

“Take away the dross from the silver,
and the smith has material for a vessel”

Silver necklace & wooden rose

Have you ever watched a silversmith work his magic? It’s quite intriguing to see the excruciatingly hot furnace burn everything to ash, leaving only the purest of the metals. The leftover is the only useful element of the whole product. The process to meliorate a perfect piece of jewelry is through intense fire. The higher quality my silver pendant, the more money the jeweler will siphon from my bank account. The saying, you get what you pay for, is true on so many levels. A silver pendant at a dime store may look nice the first few days, but eventually, the outside coating will wear off exposing the pendant’s true nature…fake junk.

I wrote about the Refiner a year ago here: Refined Restoration. I love the analogy Solomon uses in this verse to describe the process by which God clears out our flaws. It hurts to realize we have issues. When the “Silversmith” exposes our imperfections, the process of cleaning out our hearts is without a doubt downright humiliating. Recently, a lady sat across the table from me stating how she could write novels about others who did such-n-such to her. But then, stated that she never did such-n-such to anyone else. As I respectfully kept quiet, my mind was recalling several instances where she had done such-n-such to me! Do I only see the flaws of others and not of myself? Lord, burn me in that fire…

Ouch!!

But, the second half of the verse gives us hope. Most of us wonder if we have purpose in life. His word says we were created with purpose. The problem with us humans…we are too fearful of pain, too full of pride, to allow Him to mold us into a creation of usefulness, a useful vessel. Because of the inherited sin nature, we are full of flaws, personality defects, and death. Are we letting God grow and mature us? When we allow God to run us through the “fire” to take away our dross (flaws), we cool into pure creatures full of God’s love.

Are we fake junk…

  • Are we full of impatience, unkindness, envy, boastfulness, arrogance, and rudeness?
  • Do we insist on our own way?
  • Are we irritable or resentful of others?
  • Do we hold grudges?
  • Do we relish or laugh at bad behavior?
  • Do we celebrate when truth is exposed…or do we even seek truth?

Have we been burned by the Silversmith…

  • Love.
  • It tolerates all things.
  • Love is loyal.
  • Love believes there is value in everyone.
  • Love does not give up on hope.
  • Love prevails.

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 20:10 (Do we show partiality?)

“Differing weights and differing measures—
the Lord detests them both.” 20:10
~Not only applicable to business practices…but to relationships as well. Do we have one standard for one person, but not the same expectation for another? Do we love others based on their ability to live up to our standards? We tend to view others based on our personal perspective derived from our own world. When we quit expecting others to love based on our standards, and quit trying to seek love based on another person’s standards, we recognize the Lord is the only entity who loves us unconditionally. The Lord is the only one who shows NO partiality in whom he loves. He is the only one who truthfully sees our heart. He loves me. He loves you! Rest.

Beautiful Differing Feet!

Beautiful Differing Feet!

 

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Was I really meant to be here?

Here’s that mood again. So tell me…what if a person was not meant to be born? How is their life justified? Does the life that was not meant to be actually have purpose?

Deep questions for a dreary rainy day.

I know a lot of babies these days born outside of the traditional home. I feel a sense of connection for those born out of wedlock. Do they use that word anymore? I don’t know. I guess it’s the new norm. Seems no one even knows what virginity is these days, maybe we never did. Every generation drifts farther and farther from that biblical “family unit” we were taught from our grandparents. I’ve read the generations after the Baby-Boomers are more likely to live together than risk getting married, to risk getting divorced. I don’t agree, but I thoroughly understand.

So mom gets pregnant. Sometimes dad stays, mostly he moves on. Sometimes we have two moms, and sometimes, two dads. Seems there is no “norm” these days.

In some ways I sure do wish the “anything goes” philosophy wasn’t accepted back in my day. Do the kids of today feel the awkwardness from being born as the result of a “non-biblical” situation? Has society evolved enough that no one cares?

I felt it…the rejection. In some ways, I still feel it. The lies Satan whisperers in my ear:

  • My parents had to get married because of me.”
  • Their hardships were my fault because I came too early.”
  • Six months after our wedding? Oh no, our baby was early.”
  • We’re so sorry we got pregnant, it was an accident.”
  • You’re nothing but an embarrassment.”
  • I see another zit…are you ever going to clear that thing up?”
  • You’re just a fat whore!”
  • So you survived those illnesses, surgeries, and accidents? Maybe the world would be better off if…”

Oh yes, I’ve heard it all. The excuses, the cover-ups, the lies. So, what it boils down to is, I wasn’t supposed to be here. Right? Maybe. But doesn’t God himself breathe life? If so, why did He breathe life in me if I was not to be? Would I not have survived those near death experiences if I were not to be here?

I wonder if my own experience is the basis for my deep pro-life stance. My empathy generates great passion for the unborn, unwanted, and unloved. What right do I have to life if another is aborted or abandoned? Why me and not another?

 

Sometimes…I really do wish I could take their place…

 

“Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10

“Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10 (MSB)

 

 

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Fifty Shades of Lust

Bleach is one chemical I refuse to reject. When whites do not come out of the washer as white as white, they are promptly run through a re-cycle with a load of bleach. Oh yes, my whites are white…not any shade of grey!

I’ll make this post short. A while back, I wrote a piece about porn and its effects on marriage and family here: From a Wife’s Perspective. That post was, admittedly, not one of my best…kind of dry. I really should take the time to re-write, but life and too many other thoughts keep distracting me.

The main theme is the destruction on the marriage and family. Yet, a deeper side-effect is the damage to the psyche. After immersing into the world of lust, the images are embedded in the memory, without help from God above to renew the mind. Trust me…I’ve seen firsthand the fallout.

Most men don’t realize the women in front of the camera are somebody’s daughter, somebody’s future wife, somebody’s future mother. And girlfriends, that man behind the camera is nowhere close to the kind of love we all desire.

What are we committed to? Where are our loyalties? If you are not committed to your marriage, you are flirting with adultery and divorce. Men, do you not realize that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Women, do you not realize one woman’s knockoff is another woman’s designer wardrobe! If you treasure your marriage (or future marriage) your whole heart will be in it. You will protect it. You will love, support, and cherish your spouse. Sex was created by God himself…and it is beautiful. Abuse only distorts God’s creation. Love the way Jesus loves us, with a pure and faithful love.

Do we all not desire identity? At the root of all desire is the need for fulfillment. How can anyone be whole, secure, or complete if their heart is focused on the temporal? Everything, yes everything on this earth will eventually decay…including that beautiful fantasy.

The eternal is all that will fill the holes in our hearts. Put your identity in Him.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made from the hands and heart of our creator!

(Instead of supporting an industry that exploits the abuse of women, donate to your local women’s shelter instead…you may just save a life!)

Psalm 139.14.

Your Daily Proverb ~ 10:7 (Are you a blessing??)

I have at least three things I really need to be doing right now…

  • Clean this pig-sty house for my mom-in-law is coming to town…tomorrow!
  • Laundry…because sometimes we need clean underwear!
  • Fix dinner…because my man usually needs to eat…maybe…

But…here I sit…writing. I had a brainstorm. **Sigh**

I picked a Daily Proverb this morning for my Facebook that had not been posted in the past, 10:1. A couple of hours ago, I received word from a good friend that a former co-worker just passed away. After hearing of her death, the 7th verse, one I have used often, is all that runs through my mind.

“…but the name of the wicked will rot.”

Oh yes…I remember my old co-worker. All I can say is I hope & pray after they found the cancer that she took the time to make amends with whomever she was continually infuriated with. Even more so, I pray she made amends with Jesus. I pray she found forgiveness, for herself and others. The sad thing is, even though I have no right to judge her or where she is now, my memories of her character are so negative, my hope for a positive afterlife is not very…hopeful. Then again, do we really know? I can imagine the office atmosphere now is, how shall we say tactfully, lighter? I myself have been accused at times of being a grump at work. We all have bad days now and then. Usually, we get over ourselves and bounce right back to our usual cheerfulness. And then there’s that one…

That grump. Day in and day out. Always irritated at nearly everything. The one co-worker, friend, or relative who ravishes peace…thrives on hate.

How will the future hold our memory?

  • Will they remember our laughter?
  • Will they remember our rage?
  • Will our Love be known?

The only thing that will matter a hundred years from now, the only thing is the character we leave behind. Not a physical thing. Only character.

Will our memory be a blessing??

Will all this drama really matter a hundred years from now?

Will all this drama really matter a hundred years from now?

 

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 4:10 (Whose advice??)

“Dear friend, take my advice;
it will add years to your life.” Proverbs 4:10

I love old Indian Proverbs and Irish Proverbs. But I especially love the Proverbs after the Psalms. Most of the quotes are principles, not rules. I wonder how much better off we would be if they were actually approved by Congress and converted into law. I know, crazy, right?!!

Today’s Proverb, the 4th chapter, presents reasons to adhere to wisdom. A while back, I received an e-mail with a series of pictures depicting the crazy, risky, and down-right stupid things men do; like climbing a metal ladder in a flooded garage to change a light bulb. The caption was Why Women Live Longer Than Men! Oh yes, it was so true! Not a lot of wisdom there! In the Proverb, wisdom is described as a form of person using the female gender. I love that. Not just because I am female, although it is flattering 😉 , but because by using the female gender God is saying that wisdom should be treated as a Lady. A lady who is cherished, cared for, and loved. To put it in today’s terms, wisdom should become your basic soul-mate.

We are also warned to be VERY careful of the advice you receive. The only way to know wisdom is to keep His word in your heart (verse 21). The Proverb speaks of adhering to his fatherly advice. Whose advice?? I don’t believe he is talking about our earthly father, but our heavenly father. What man can give infallible advice? No one I know! Most men (and women, of course) will screw it up. The chapter reiterates any advice must be backed in truth or destruction will follow. I think we have all, at one time or another, taken or given well intentioned advice which ended up in disaster.

I wrote a piece about Job’s Three Friends highlighting the destructive force stemming from advice based on a self-centered viewpoint, along with a lack of or inaccurate and/or false information. Do you pray for wisdom? Do you pray you receive advice based on Godly wisdom? Do you pray you give advice based on Godly wisdom? Wisdom is based on truth. God’s truth. Do you seek truth?

Do you seek truth??

Have you had relationships turn sour due to someone listening to bad advice? It hurts. The kicker is, unless the person who accepted the bad advice (subsequently causing the fraction) is the one to correct the fallacious perception others received, there is nothing you can do. Just sit back and wait. In the end, God will correct all wrongs in His time. That’s better said than done if you are a justice-minded person! **Sigh**

The Proverbs contain a mountain of common sense. I’m sure there is a study out there somewhere, and I would not be surprised if the biblical Proverbs are the most quoted of all idioms. They get into your soul. Small quotes are easy to remember…and small candid quotes have the power to guide us to better lives.

Shine bright!

Shine bright!

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People Pleasers and Brownie Points

Are you a people pleaser or a people lover? Are you a God pleaser or a God lover?

I may get some flak for saying this, but people pleasers are very self-centered individuals. When you run across those who simply cannot say no to anyone, do you think to yourself, “My, what a nice person.”? Unfortunately, most do. Or, what do you think of the person who can’t stand anyone to be mad at them? Do you automatically think, “Oh, they are such peace-loving people.”? Unfortunately, again, most do.

If we cannot say no to people, we are in essence saying no to God. What if God did not want that for that person, or for us? We cannot please both man and God, can we?

In our devotions this morning, the question was posed, “Is it better to please God or to trust God?” Now, obviously, by the way it is worded, anyone can figure out the correct answer is to trust. Yet, without the comparison of trust, most people with a works-based mentality will typically fall under the belief (of which I have had thrown at me way too many times) that as Christians we are to live to please God. We need to be good little boys and girls. On the surface, it sounds good. But God cares more about our hearts than our actions.

Why do we please? Why do we behave properly? When we teach our toddler not to touch that hot stove, they will obey for fear of pain. Very rarely will you find a toddler who will leave hot appliances alone without instruction, especially boys! How many mothers can attest to the continual question, “But why??” Because I said so. 😉 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Oh, to come to the place where we long to do good out of love…not fear.

We are carnal people. We are selfish people. Do we want God to be pleased with us for our own benefit? Or for His? Do we please (or go around doing “good” to others) out of fear of reprisals?

We want our world to be soft. We want our “Brownie Points” as I used to tease my kids. We want to please others because it feels good…to us. We want to please God because we are under the impression He will love us more. We want to please God because we are under the impression we will have greater reward in heaven one day. We want to please Mommy so we can have an extra helping of ice cream on top of those brownies!

Are you following what I am saying yet? I believe it all boils down to the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40 that we are to love God and Man. To Love. All the commandments are inconsequential after the command to love, for the rest will naturally fall into place.

We love because God first loved us: 1 John 4:18-20. That means we did not love first. He did. He set the example. We are to follow suit. Do we love others, even when we are not loved in return? No, that’s too hard. Sometimes, I just really want to smack people. And I guess maybe God really just wants to smack me…

No, he loves…without expecting anything in return. He loves without expecting us to please him. He just loves. We are to love (do for) others as He loved us, without expectation.

He says wait. He says yes. He says no. Although God wants good things for his children, he never tries to please us. He gives us that which is in our best interest. Giving us that which is not in our best interest is not love. Pleasing us for our happiness is not love. Giving us that which is in our best interest, even that with which we are not pleased is love.

What is our motive behind pleasing others? Do we think God doesn’t know our motives behind our wanting to please Him?

Contributing to the happiness of others in order to fluff our own happiness is not love. Contributing to the best interest of others for their sake, without expecting them to even so much as like us…is love.

What does trusting God look like? Do we trust God for our best interest? Do we really believe he loves us? If we trust in His love, we won’t expect anything in return. We will know He has our back. We will not feel the need to please Him to be accepted. We will want to be the person he created. Typically, we want to be like those we love. We want to be like Jesus.

Pleasure, pure pleasure, only comes when we fully trust in His love.

We cant do anything to make God love us less. So stop trying.

Another church debate?

And the church is now debating youth groups…

The newest movement in the church world today is the “Integration of the Congregation”. The concept is such that our kids are falling away, as argued in one of many circles such as in this article; Charisma News; which discusses statistics showing youth groups are driving Christian teens to abandon the faith. The trend is leading the church to abandon their youth groups.

The debate seems to be about destructive peer pressure in church. The new thought process is that separating youth from parents in church waters down and annihilates any teaching of Godly principles, leaving youth abandoned to seek total downfall with their church peers. By integrating the youth with the adults, they will learn to become exemplary, well rounded, Christian grown-ups. In all the articles I’ve read on Family Integration, statics and scripture references are used to back up this theory: Deuteronomy 16:9-14, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, 2 Chronicles 20:13, Nehemiah 12:43 and Joel 2:15-16…to quote a few from the above article. But, if you look at these scriptures, they talk of feasts and assembly gatherings (you know…church), but do not mention youth groups. In fact, I don’t think anyone has found any scripture stating youth groups are not allowed. (Yet, the bible doesn’t mention cigarettes either. Just sayin’!) One of the verses used by most when it comes to family worship is Deuteronomy 6:4-7, which instructs fathers to teach the statutes to their children. Yes…the fathers to teach their children. So, is this proof we need to abolish youth groups and put everyone together?

And then…finally…here is a common sense article by Ed Stetzer debunking the theory that all youth groups are bad, posted in Christianity Today. Actually, he debunks the statistics used by arguments for the bad youth group theory. When the statistics are skewed, we are compelled to take another look at our theories. I am not at all against Family Integration, rather I am for it. But I am not against abolishing our youth groups either.

This post is obviously just my humble opinion…but my opinion is based on experience…from my own youth. You see, I had a drug problem. My parents drug me to church every week! (Bet you haven’t heard that one before! 😉 ) Seriously, that is about the one thing my parents did right. Part of my “testimony” is that I hated church…and youth group…from being a pretty messed up youth myself. I felt all the kids were either hypocrites or dorks. They were not the kind of kids I preferred to hang out with on a Friday night…and I didn’t. I partied. And partied. But, that’s another story…

In spite of hating youth group…the Gospel got in.

It. got. in.

And I came back. Not to church. I came back to Jesus.

Yes, some of my most pivotal memories are of little words, verses, or phrases, Ron or Lindell spoke here and there. And then, there are the Sunday school teachers who put up with us one hour a week speaking into our lives.

And the list goes on…

I’ve often wondered over the years how many of them thought they were wasting their time. How many of them thought I was a waste…

I wonder where I would be if the church my parents attended (quite by default due to my Grandma) did not have a youth group. Would I have created less trouble for myself and others? Would I be here today? No, I don’t believe so.

Listening to the many in favor of abandoning youth groups, I hear a resounding argument that the youth would be naturally sitting at home on daddy’s knee listening to him quote scripture every waking hour.

Maybe in a bubble.

Not in my family.

Not in today’s world.

Yes, we were a “Christian” family. We went to church. We talked the talk. But not once do I remember my dad leading in anything other than prayer before dinner on Sunday afternoon. Even if he wanted to, how could he? He was either on a ship somewhere or working 2nd shift during the week. Neither did his father, or his father before him. I don’t blame them, they were living as their fathers before them taught. They were doing the best they could. Our forefathers believed the way to show love to the family was to work and leave the teaching to Momma and the Public Schools.

Hey Church! That’s the real world.

Yes, I gathered some instruction from my family. But when a teenager is “troubled” their parent is the last person they will follow. That’s reality.

What would have happened if I did not have a youth group? Where else would I have gone for instruction? The very places that encouraged my self-destructive behavior to flourish: the world. Yes, the public school and, of course, peers.

Now, they say times have changed. We watched a clip in church this morning interviewing several Millennials about their perception of the world and what it was like to be a Millennial Christian. Their words took me back to my own youth. You know what? Nothing has changed. Not really. As a child of the 60’s & 70’s, I had the same outlook…round peg in a square hole. I have a sneaky feeling youth have experienced the same moods since Adam & Eve. We can blame it on almost anything, but common sense says the human body changes and we grow up, during which time we search for purpose…that inner longing for the choosing between right and wrong…searching to fill the hole created by our own sin. That hole which only God can fill. Youth grow to adults, and in the process, we all seek to fit somewhere in society. Heck, even the disciples jockeyed for position…trying to “fit in”.

Youth of any millennia will seek their place in adulthood. Where is the best place to navigate those roads? I believe both the family and youth groups are the answer. The best place is the place where they can find Jesus. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent family, would they receive instruction outside of church? No. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent church, would they receive instruction sitting in the pew next to their parents? No. Are there churches with youth groups that are simply play-time? Yes. Are there families who are only “Christian” on Sundays? Yes.

As for the theory of separation, in most American churches, after “Sunday School” is over, when the kids are old enough to sit for a spell (older than toddler age), the youth are always sitting (Integrated) in the church service…sometimes bored to death. But…the Spirit can work years later to bring back God’s word to a broken heart. God’s word which we never realized will reach into our deaf ears. And the “youth groups” that are in question? They always meet outside of Sunday morning services, such as a Sunday evening or mid-week night. Most active youth groups meet more than adult life groups! Would you rather your youth go to the parties I attended on the weekend or to a church youth event? I didn’t think so. Are there “bad” activities going on during church events? Sometimes…for we live in a fallen world. Are there “bad” activities going on during social, non-churched, events? Of this, I can assure you, almost always.

If you want to “fix” our youth, abolishing the group is throwing out the baby with the bath water. Preach to the fathers. Yes, instruct the fathers in how to teach their children. And in all reality, that may fail. Bad stats show somewhere around 50% in the church are divorced/single parent households, where it is more likely around 25-30%…which is still huge no matter how you look at the issue. Embrace those kids, as well as kids whose parents are unchurched. When the fathers are absent, create churches that will hire Youth Pastors and not Youth Directors. Train leaders who will be examples of Jesus to kids. Create an atmosphere where youth have a safe place as they learn to break the parental apron strings and grow into adulthood.

Then, and only then, will you have an explosion of salvation in our youth culture….our future!

God's Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

God’s Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 20:14 (Inadvertent theft?)

“’It is worthless, it is worthless!’ says the buyer; but when he goes his way, then he boasts about his bargain.” ~Proverbs 20:14 

My husband hates to negotiate. Some of it is sheer personality, but mostly, negotiating is an indication that one of the parties is attempting to get something for nothing. Either the seller has inflated the price to portray something more than it is worth, or the buyer (as in the Proverb) is casting doubt on the quality in order to pay less than the actual worth. Inadvertent theft.

Does God do that with us? He could have. He had every right to cast full light on our sin and expose our worthlessness. Jesus could have called down all the Angels in heaven to keep from paying the price asked for our sins.

But he didn’t.

He paid a price we were unable to pay. He willingly sacrificed an inflated price for our worthlessness. And yet, as he walked away, arose to heaven, instead of proclaiming our worthlessness…he proclaimed nothing but love.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 

Grandma's Relics

Grandma’s Relics

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 18:17 (Did you hear the other side?)

“Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” ~Proverbs 18:17 

~A wise one is never gullible. As the saying goes…don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see…no matter who it’s from.

When you hear a sob story, are you listening to an opinion or an account of actual events? How many relationships have been destroyed by gullible good people not verifying statements from trusted sources? We hear the hurt in their voices as they recount events that describe injustices done and we want to defend our loved ones & friends against the evil that has been inflicted on them. Why would we question their side of the issues? After all, they are our best friend, our teacher, our pastor, our mentor, our parent. Why would we question?

We question because we live in a fallible world. We are all one-sided human beings. We react and feel based on OUR own experiences. And just maybe, just maybe, they themselves do not know the other side.

We woke up to a bang outside our bedroom window a few weeks back. Big bangs are never a peaceful way to start the morning. It always means my coffee will be delayed. Not good. 😦 My husband went out to see if everyone was safe. The teenage boy who crossed the middle line on his way to school was a fairly new driver. I felt sorry and glad for him at the same time. While it’s never good to be in any accident, sometimes, especially for boys, having a non-injury accident early on teaches hard lessons in humility.

The first-hand account from the second vehicle following the youth claimed the youth was trying to pass another vehicle and he did not have enough room to return to his lane before hitting the oncoming truck, spinning both the youth’s car and the truck off into the cornfield. Of this, he was certain of what he witnessed.

The problem is…there was no vehicle in front of the youth for him to pass…in all actuality, he was reaching in the passenger’s seat for his brush. I guess he forgot to look in the mirror before leaving home. When mom arrived, taking pictures on her cell phone, he was definitely red-faced!

This is why law enforcement are trained to take all statements before writing up a report. They look at all angles before making any conclusions.

Basically…they unknowingly adhere to the **gasp** Bible… “He who states his case first seems right, until his rival comes and cross-examines him.” ~Proverbs 18:17 .

Why can’t we do that with our relationships? Do we really…really…know what it is we think we know??

Maybe…just maybe…we should at least ask??

Maybe…just maybe…that is what you would want others to do for you??

cornfield crash

Your Daily Proverb ~ 15:17 (Better peace with veggies?)

“Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred.”
 v15:17

Family. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them either.” … Well, yes, I can live without them. They say blood is thicker than water…but I don’t believe that is true for humans. We are fallible beings. I do believe that is true for God’s people, who are connected through the perfect blood of Jesus…not the blood of a fallible man.

Do you remember family dinners? Are they even in existence anymore? When disharmony is the dish of the day…a TV tray is much more peaceful. Sadly, we miss out on family time. But, when the conflict, back-biting, ridiculing, and the put-down’s flow, I’d much rather sit by myself with a bowl of…dare I say…broccoli *gasp* than to sit at a full table with people who cause one to have to come up fighting just to breathe. Yep…you can keep your fattened calf.

The family God brings into my life is where the love flows…

Fattened calf...actually, this was probably a bull at one time... ;)

Fattened calf…actually, this was probably a bull at one time… 😉

 

The Vertical Proverbs…

A proverb a day. Does it really work? I believe so. Sometimes those short daily “reminders” keep us jolted into the right direction. I once read an interview with Billy Graham who said he reads a Psalm a day to improve his vertical relationships, and a Proverb a day to improve his horizontal relationships. (Vertical meaning with God, horizontal meaning with Man) I’ve found his words to be true. While simply reading the bible won’t fix all our problems (it has to be applied), it sure does give us tools to cope.

A while back, I started posting “Your Daily Proverb” on my Facebook page…which has been a humorous hit. Mostly because I find a ton of humor, along with a lot of good old fashioned common sense, in the Proverbs. Plus, I tend to see things others might miss. Today though, I posted one that is a little more on the serious side…because it hit home. (And maybe because today I am fighting the proverbial sinusitis and my head makes me just want to slap people!) Maybe I might just start a page on my blog with all my Daily Proverbs…we’ll see. I hope you find today’s pick insightful:

 

Your Daily Proverb:
“The simpleton believes every word he hears, but the prudent man looks and considers well where he is going.” v14:15
~Simpleton. Such a cool word for a simple person! I like that word. Simpleton. How many relationships do you know have been destroyed because someone believed the negative, even from a trusted source, without even verifying if the negative words spoken (your basic gossip) were even close to the truth? Simpletons have no desire to seek truth. That which is right is found in the prudent.

 

Maybe tomorrow…when the fog clears…I’ll post my normal humor…  :/

Praying Mantis in the Mums

(I’m not sure what this picture of a Praying Mantis hiding in my Mums have to do with this post…but there you go…)

 

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Can we just like each other?

Why do you find it so hard to like me?” That seems to be a common question in our society. Bookstore shelves are full of self-help books trying to answer this question. We seem to think that happiness in our horizontal relationships, not our vertical relationship, is the key to inner satisfaction. But we don’t stop to consider that we are fallible beings. Why do we always have our expectations too high? We tend to walk through relationship after relationship automatically setting ourselves up for failure.

So, why? Why do some people like me…and others don’t?

Do you not like me because of something I did…or who I am?

Do you not like me because…

*of my gender or ethnicity? (Like I can help that!)
*of differing religions? (Tolerance anyone??)
*of my accent, level of education, or social status? (We all put on our pants one leg at a time!)
*you feel threatened by my position or that I have a position you wanted? (work/church/etc.)
*I have physical/mental deformities? (But for the Grace of God there go I…)
*I am single…married…divorced? (This is a big one!)
*I am married to your dad/mom (the step syndrome!)…or your ex (the jealous syndrome)?
*I am married/related to someone you don’t like? (soooo Jr. High!)
*I am married/related to someone you do like? (again…soooo Jr. High!)
*I may have been mean or ignored you in Junior High? (People do change you know!)
*you had me on your own pedestal, and in my humaneness, I let you down? (Unrealistic expectations)

Do I not like you for the same reasons??

Isn’t it about time we all get over ourselves???

Everyone is consumed with their own little world. Most people go through life worried about the thoughts others have toward them, when in reality, others are only consumed with themselves and don’t even give a thought to anyone else.

One of my favorite sayings…

At 20 we’re only concerned with what others think of us.
At 40 we really don’t care what others think of us.
At 60 we realize nobody really thinks of us.
And at 80 we finally just live happy!

Have you known people who were not concerned with how anyone was hurt by what they did, yet their concern was wrapped around the thought that someone may not like them? People pleasers always hurt someone. Think about it. If everyone has their own agenda, whose agenda do you fill? These people are also called peace keepers instead of peace makers. Peace keepers will please the dominate people to keep the drama at a minimum, all the while hurting the meek. But peace makers will stand by the truth and only please God. Yes, someone will always be upset, mad, and out-right disgruntled, because we are selfish human beings who only want our own agenda. Someone will always make everyone feel bad for not following their agenda. Yet, so will the next person. And the next…

Some people seem to be plagued by mean people, while I seem to be plagued by people pleasers! Then again…maybe I am the mean people who plague others! I don’t see it. Frankly, my intentions are usually, always, most of the time, meant for the good. But then again, they say the addict is the last to admit to any indiscretion. Even though I have studied psychology and all the personality/temperament types…maybe, just maybe “myself” is the last I see?? But when you only strive to stand on truth, no matter who is offended or upset, God always makes sure everything works for the good of all involved. (Romans 8:28)

In God’s amazing design, everyone is different. We all have varying personalities, backgrounds, belief systems, and social economic status. I’ve read that 10% of people in your life will not like you no matter what you do. Some personalities will naturally clash. The trick is to overcome our individual preferences and develop an attitude of acceptance. But then, we can’t be offended over every little thing. Attitudes of acceptance requires self-acceptance. We need to be secure in who we are as well. Do we even like ourselves? Knowing that God loves us and accepts our person-hood should alleviate any angst for the opinions of others. Then we are free to accept others as they are…as God accepts us…the way Jesus accepted the woman at the well, the centurion, and the ragamuffin disciples.

So…can we just like each other? But just maybe…with God’s Spirit flowing through us…maybe we can learn to actually love each other? Maybe??

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” ~1 Peter 4:8

80-60-40-20

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Scrooged New Year

New Year’s Resolutions…Nope. I don’t think so. Have you ever? Of course we all have. But I’d say about 99.9% of normal folks forget about their “self-promises” by January 3rd. Well, that would be today. Yep, I learned years ago to skip this tradition.

I haven’t written much at all lately. I suppose the holidays could be used as an excuse…but since we are all the dictators of our own time…I really have no excuse. Life happens. Life is chaos. Life is redundant. Life is…life.

July 4th is my very favorite holiday. And why not? It’s the holiday with all the hoop-la and none of the hassle. We get to enjoy lots of food (an ancient favorite!), gatherings with friends (no family drama), and best of all…fireworks! Oh yeah…presents? Nope. Nada. Not a one. Am I a “Scrooge”? I don’t believe so. I love giving gifts, but we live in such an entitlement society that the joy has been sucked right out of charity. **Sigh**

But, then again, I guess I should have at least posted a “Merry Christmas” on my blog. Oh well…maybe that will be my New Year’s Resolution for next Christmas. 😉

 EPSON scanner image

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Do you really want to be a step-parent? Part 2

(For the 1st half of this post, read here… “Do You Really Want to be a Step-Parent?” Then come back!)

I started this post quite a while ago, but decided with the negative nature of lengthy blogs, I would divide it into two posts. I’m afraid it’s still a bit lengthy. 😉 This post may not make sense without reading through the first post, but they are thoughts from two different directions…this one being my “bullet” list…which I’ve read are not very popular, but I feel effective for multiple points within the same subject. We’ll see if anyone agrees…bullets or no??

Most of these two posts on step-parenting have already been written in the volumes of blended family self-help discussions…I’m just trying to post my own “journal” from experience through my studies, my friends, and my own life. My prayer is that someone…at least one person…would be able to improve our world by avoiding the pitfalls of so many others.

In all these years, I have seen very few cases where all the ex’s were mature enough, and secure enough, to be amicable. We live in a society where offense runs skin deep. The innocent children are tossed back and forth continually being used as weapons against the ex. The competition quite often becomes childlike and immature. And it doesn’t have to be. It takes maturity and love to be amicable.

What is a step-parent to expect? Below are snippets of common and worse-case scenarios from my research and experience (not necessarily my own experience). As you read through these bullet points, some will resonate with you, and others will remind you of a friend or two. Hopefully, you will see a running theme.

The pitfalls of step-parent/step-children:

*No matter how much kindness is shown, or how much love is given, the step-parent is typically seen in the negative.

*No matter how many years the step-parent helped raise the child, even in cases where the spouse has full custody, the biological parent will always take emotional precedence.

*The step-parent is not welcome in their ‘family time’. The kids learned visitation is “me” time while their parent was single and is not interested in having to share their mom/dad with someone they view as embezzling their parent.

*A step-mother is expected to carry the load of the household chores while the step-kids spend play-time with their dad.

*A step-father is expected to ignore the undisciplined step-children with no rights to scold when his favorite golf club (insert favorite personal belonging) is used as a baseball bat.

*The step-child’s disrespectful attitude is overlooked due to the pity given by parents, grandparents, and extended family. The child is not taught that even though there is no requirement they respect the step-parent (usually due to their hurt from the family division) their parent’s divorce gives no excuse for the child to behave disrespectfully (Oh yes, I have plenty of experience in this one!).

Respected

* Research shows the hardest position to be in amongst a blended family is that of the step-mother. She is expected to be the caregiver while despised at the same time. If a step-mother steps in to create an atmosphere of a normal working family, with expectations of equality for every family member, they are met with hostile opposition. The new in-laws will revile her as the outsider. If discipline and chores are expected, she will be met with the position that the kids need a “vacation” on their visitations. The excuse is they don’t see their dad near as often since their parents’ divorce. However, the responsibility for the respectful behavior of the children falls on the biological parent, not the step-parent. It’s called “parenting”. (Note: Every piece of literature I have read from the experts indicates that discipline, consistency, and structure create the best environment for security…not vacation time!)

*Most non-custodial parents do not “engage” due to the separation during the space of time between visits, or out of fear that discipline will cause the child to draw away, when in fact, the opposite is true. Spoiling out of pity only leads to disrespect and dysfunction later in life.

*Through jealousy and insecurity, all too often, the ex will saturate the child with defamations regarding the step-parent. Since the parent/child bond runs deep, even when a parent is dishonest, the child is easily persuaded against the step-parent, causing irreparable damage to the relationship. (Keep in mind, lies will always backfire when the child becomes an adult and begins to think for themselves.)

*More often than not, the new step-parent will not only have to deal with the belligerent attitudes of the step-children from hurt and insecurities created from their parent’s divorce, quite often the new spouse will also need to deal with the manipulations of an insecure and over-protective or jealous ex.

*Never reply to the ranting of a jealous ex. Learn to ignore false accusations and brush them off. As they say, sometimes the reasons are obvious as to why they are divorced. For your own emotional well-being, forgive and let God handle your justification. Oh yes, I know how hard it is to let go of justification! Sometimes, it never comes. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The opinions of men/women do not at all indicate your value.

*All too often the ex (and/or overly doting grandparents) will sometimes try to out-buy or spoil the child, or outright belittle everything the child says about the ex’s household, especially the step-parent. Too many times, I have witnessed a parent withhold visitation and badger the ex in the presence of the bewildered children, not realizing their manipulations only destroy the child’s future relationship capabilities with their own spouse, choosing against marriage in favor of living together. Their attacks on the step-parent will eventually backfire. If only the vengeful parent would realize the depth of anger they have fueled in their own child’s heart (causing the child to sin), anger that only causes children (no matter what age) to lash out toward those in authority. Thus, the number one cause of the “troubled teen” syndrome plaguing our society.

*If the children are allowed to take a higher priority than the spouse, whether from guilt or pity, the home will be filled with dysfunction and the subsequent marriage will suffer. Discipline falls on the shoulders of the biological parent, and if not enforced, the family can expect nothing but chaos.

And on and on and on…volumes have already been written so hopefully you get the picture.

What can a step-parent do? Is there hope? Can a step-parent possibly have a good or even great relationship with their step-child?

Yes! Both families can have amicable and loving relationships! But it takes work. It takes patience. It takes thick skin. It takes maturity. It takes prayer. It takes love. Lots of love.

Do some heavy research to be informed on the negative and positive impact of step-parenting, both to the child and the adults, so these pit-falls can be avoided. Look for classes offered by your church, or a local church, on blended families to help you navigate through the initial adjustments. My husband and I took an invaluable class early in our marriage. Not only is seeking help beneficial for your marriage, it is essential for your children. Again, you are not alone in your struggles. Do not be too proud to seek help. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”Proverbs 15:22

Always keep in mind, when you enter in a relationship with someone who already has children, the presumed “rights” are automatically diminished. A blended family can be successful if both spouses (parent & step) prioritize, keeping their marriage as the most important family relationship. It is imperative to build that “three stranded chord” with God as your head.

Peace will come into the home and heart when you take responsibility only for that which is yours. That does not mean the atmosphere in the home will be calm. It may take years for the child to mature enough to accept and actually like their step-parent. Most of the step-parent’s success is dependent on the support of the spouse, the biological parent. The step-child’s happiness is not the step-parent’s responsibility. Yes, step-parents should continue to try and convey areas that need improvement for the benefit of the whole family. But, always remember if others do not choose to live with integrity; the results are not your responsibility. Learn to ignore. You are only responsible for you.

Though being a step-parent is a thankless job, and you may never receive the credit or recognition for your sacrifices, never grow weary in doing good. Even though you may never be fully appreciated, and a greater chance you will be resented, never ever grow weary in doing good; for no matter what the opposition, you are contributing to the future. It’s up to you whether your influence is positive or negative. The Lord above is the one you need to please, to look for approval. You will never find affirmation in people.

But most of all…pray! Pray for God’s comfort and strength. You will need it…and He will give it.

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~ Galatians 6:8-10

Matthew 11.28-30

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Reflections of Christmas through Poetry (OK…so I’m a little nostalgic tonight!)

My Christmas Story
 
A little child was born this day
to parents long ago.
Uncertainty surrounds his birth,
though Mary loved him so.
 
Perfect was he in every way,
yet Herod sought him out.
Society could not perceive
what he was all about.
 
With ignorance their passions flew.
“Be rid this Nazarene!”
A make-shift trial he was condemned,
to make their conscience clean.
 
Yet from the grave his love set free
the captives from beyond
Fulfillment in a better life
to those who would respond.
 
His love has grown two thousand years
to right that which was wrong.
Each Christmas we reflect his life
through each and every song.

~Me

Christmas Home

…Is Thanksgiving simply forgiveness??

It’s such an irritating holiday. I guess since in most gatherings, the one we want to hang with doesn’t show up, but that one person who will inevitably wreck the day will never leave…hence why Black Friday has crept into Boring Thursday.

And the root of the problem…I mean…holiday?? Forgiveness. Something which very few of us have mastered.

We hear about being thankful…and eyeballs roll when some old aunt or sappy grandma makes that proverbial request for the “wave” and round the room we go with statements of that which we are thankful for this past year. Inevitably, someone always picks my quote first, you know, trying to come up with the biggest “awe” effect, forcing me to instantly come up with something else to avoid the copy-cat syndrome. But how original can anyone be? Yep. We’re all thankful for grandma’s mincemeat pie! (She says with a sarcastic grin!) Hokey-dokey.

But, as Mary-Lou curiously questioned the Grinch, just what is the real meaning?

My prayer…

Forgive me my complacency
Release my life from apathy
To you I come on bended knee
Lord consecrate my soul to thee

Forgive the heart that aches for you
Your mercy left my soul brand new
I lift the heart you cleansed from sin
Restore to me the joy within

I cry, My God, I long for you
Your spirit come as morning dew
Lord cover me with endless grace
I find my strength in your embrace

Forgive me my complacency
Your burning fire embrace in me
In your pure love I will enjoy
Your promised hope and perfect joy

nma

Psalm 139.14

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Can’t we at least wait until Black Friday??

So many things are running through my mind…pretty good ideas for quite a few long posts. But right now, the only thing I can think of is the Thanksgiving controversy. To shop or not to shop? That seems to be the question of the day.

Several articles have been written, but one famous blogger stated everyone who shops on Thanksgiving needs to be deported. Oh my…the firestorm of comments blasting his viewpoint! In the first place, aren’t we all entitled to our own views? I guess not.

But, in my humble opinion…

The only reason for the Christmas season encroaching over any other season is consumerism. Period. As long as our society is an entitlement, ungrateful, self-centered society, any holiday promoting consumerism will overpower a holiday that only promotes human relationship & companionship. Sad thing is…both holidays have their origins in a giving God. How ironic is that?

I could go on and on and on…but in honor of the one holiday where the only purpose is to be thankful for all that God himself has given…this is for you…

Turkeys on the Farm

Meet John Wayne & Marshall Dillon. Maybe someday I’ll write about the time we stuffed them in the back of Brigitte’s van and took them on a field day…hence why we had ham for Thanksgiving dinner! (Well…since I’m allergic to pork, I ate the taters!)

Thanksgiving Dinner

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” ~Colossians 2:6-8

Just a small honoring for Veteran’s Day

Where are the old Veterans? Most of the good ones are gone now….only to be found in the stories from our old great uncles…

Can we bring back respect for our military once again…

Before we lose our dwindling freedoms…

My Daddy in Vietnam

Dad leaving for Vietnam

The Pain of a Child

We all have our crosses to bear. If your child is perfect, count your blessings and ignore this post. If your child is imperfect, join the crowd. You are one of the gazillion humans who’s beautifully innocent baby evolved into a normal human. Imperfect. Fallible. Normal. So, why are parents everywhere beating themselves up?

Just what is “normal” in our world? I have several friends who have offspring deemed handicapped, or the PC term, special needs. I’ve seen firsthand the agony they feel as they navigate through social barriers. It hurts. It’s not fair. It’s humiliating. But I also see more patience, care, and genuine love from these parents to their special children than from anywhere else.

One time a close friend confided that even though she would never trade her child, she sometimes grieved for a “normal” child. She grieved for the sports that were never played, the parties never attended, and the weddings never planned. She dreamed of having just one day that her child would not embarrass her in public with weird noises and gestures. Just one day where the awkward stares were of jealousy and not disgust. Oh, to have just one day with a “normal” child…

And then there’s my other close friend…the one with the “wild” child. How many times did she get a call in the middle of the night? I watched as she stood in court next to her son, dressed in orange. I would be upset too. I hate orange. It totally washes out my complexion. Orange is only good on a pumpkin…and then only in a pumpkin latte…or pumpkin ice cream…or pumpkin pie…with whipped cream on top. Autumn is the best time of year…the fall color of changing leaves…and pumpkin. Ahhh…

Pumpkins & Mums

Oh yes…back to court…

Can you imagine the pain a mother feels standing with a judge staring down in front and her son’s friends staring from behind? The boy she gave birth to made a few bad choices, yet, society blames the parents. I saw her teach right from wrong. I saw her love. Then I saw the very life she gave turn on her, lie about her, and hate her. My friend always said she did not expect her child to be another Albert Einstein, Peyton Manning, or Brad Pitt, yet, how she longed to have that “normal” child. Just one day where the awkward stares were of jealousy and not disgust. Oh, to have just one day with a “normal” child…

Why do we long for what is not ours to have? We want relief. We want acceptance. These two mommas were human. Just a small longing of a world without the difficulties of life. That’s all it is. But, are we willing to walk the path of those we perceive as normal? I once heard the recount of a musician in a symphony who was sought after by several fans. One commented they would give anything to play as well as the musician, to whom the musician replied, “You can, if you are willing to give up everything to practice sixty hours a week for most of your life.” The fan sadly walked away…not willing to make the same sacrifice.

Would my two friends trade places? Would they be willing to walk in the other’s shoes to have what they deem as normal? I also have friends who have those “perfect” children. For the most part, they cannot relate to parents with difficult children. But, are their lives perfect? Is their world free of difficulty? No. In every case, in every life, drama digs in its evil claws through some small area of their lives. One friend is riddled with financial burdens, while another is plagued with health issues. One friend is aching for the loss of children from a barren womb, while another wrenches from miscarriage. One friend mourns the death of her child from a reckless driver, while another reels from the death of her child from suicide. Would anyone want to trade places with either of those friends? I didn’t think so…

Thanksgiving Holiday can be a very grim time for people in rough situations. How can we be thankful when we face so much adversity? How can we explain the situations we have no control? Why is our pumpkin never a silver-lined coach? Character. Yes, God is building character. Think about it…don’t the best people in life have a trail of tears? It’s been said the biggest problem with the next generation is ingratitude with an entitlement mentality. I believe it. We give trophies for participation. What do they learn? Self. What happens when the pressures of life surround them? And, they will. Most young people crumble. Looking back…I did too. But I got back up. I survived. Experience has a way of not only maturing, but of strengthening.

If I can convey anything in this post…it’s hope. Only when we stop looking at the supposed successes of others will we see our own. We are each unique. We are each made for a different path. Quit longing for someone else’s path. Mow the grass on your side of the fence first. When we realize that God in his great love did not place any greater value on Albert Einstein, Peyton Manning, or Brad Pitt than he did on Jane, Sally, or Mary, then we will appreciate the little “thorns” in our life. For when we look up past our thorns…the rose of God’s love holds us in his palm.

 

Can we be content? Can we be satisfied? Can we be Thankful??

Romans 5.2-5

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Football or Sunrises? Hard choice…

I’m in nostalgia tonight. Weird…after last night’s “serious” post. 😉 Our sunset had some color, but not many clouds to make it spectacular.

It’s getting colder out…beach. Ahhh…the beach. It’s been way too long.

Believe it or not, I actually caught a sunrise a few weeks ago. I know, strange. The world does not turn before my second pot of coffee. But with the days getting shorter, the sun rose one day during the roasting…giving just enough time for my half opened eyes to grab my camera.

I just thought I would share…while watching Eli getting hit by Freeman. Love the great acting in his commercial. 🙂

Red sky in the morning,

     Sailors take warning…

Sunrise (1)

Sunrise (3)

Sunrise (4)

Sunrise (7)

“…to give knowledge of salvation to his people
           in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
      whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
           to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

~Luke 1:77-79

 

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The Marriage Controversy…Not a very popular topic…

I’ve seen a few posts lately about divorce causing more destruction to the breakdown of the family unit than same sex marriage. I agree. After a couple of “fun” posts, here we are on a more serious note…and my mind seems to be jumbled tonight. I guess my thoughts are about the disintegrating family, divorce, same-sex marriage, and blame-shifting. Not very popular topics in today’s world.

At this point, I should say that if you do not believe in God, you won’t agree with this post. And that’s fine, I am not your judge, nor do I want to be. Though I’m sure not perfect, these are my beliefs. You are welcome to disagree…and leave a comment. 🙂

The biggest problem, as I see it, with both the world and the church is the inability to be able to differentiate between the sin and the person. The world would have us believe that to accept the person; we have to accept the sin. The church traditionally believed the person is the same as the sin and both are unacceptable. The modern church has shifted to accepting the sin in the name of tolerance. Yet, Jesus always loved the person while condemning the sin. And then…there’s the argument over what constitutes sin…

Since I am one who questions everything and tries to get to the source, or the bottom, of every issue; where is the progression? How far down will the “Christian” family fall? Where will it end? To figure that out, maybe we should figure out where it began…

The garden. The beginning and fall of mankind. Otherwise referred to as “original sin”. The love of self.

In the world of roping, a three-stranded chord cannot be easily broken. The typical Christian family consists of a dad, mom, and child: Three-stranded chord. This phenomenon is synonymous with the picture God gave in the Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Three in one. Where does this foundation originate? From the beginning, from Genesis. It originates from a book, scrolls, which have existed for centuries, and proven over and over.

Unfortunately, in our politically correct society, any comment contrary to an acceptance of homosexuality is deemed as hate and bigotry. Most don’t understand how to hate the sin while loving the person. Any comment contrary to divorce being a normal part of life is deemed as antiquarian. In reality, divorce has done more to destroy the foundational family unit than the gay marriage issue. I should know…I’ve been divorced.

But do we really want to find out what God thinks? Most don’t. Jesus himself said, “Not everyone can accept this word.” ~Matthew 19:11 Most Liberal Christians dismiss the Old Testament, using the excuse that the Cross changed everything; but ignoring the words of Jesus, “… I have not come to abolish them [the laws] but to fulfill them.” ~Matthew 5:17-20

Then there is the argument that Jesus did not specifically talk against homosexuality. Yet, Jesus talked a lot about “sexual immorality” which was understood as being anything outside of marriage.

Scripture teaches…when it comes to “sexual sin”, anyone who was not a complete virgin when they married is guilty. Period. And these days…that pretty much encompasses most all of us! We’re all guilty. So, there you have it. That in and of itself should sum up any and every argument. No? Well then…

Basically, God said man is to leave mom and dad and cleave to his wife and become one. He did not say for man to cleave to his husband; or wife to cleave to her wife. The Old Testament is clear that marriage was between male and female. Jesus reiterated the same scriptures in the new testament: “Have you not read that at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? ” ~Matthew 19:4-5 & Genesis 2:24

Liberal Christians tend to not believe in the literal bible or the individual interpretations of what God did and did not want. They argue that actions do not affect others and who marries and who doesn’t is only their business. They proclaim if we do not accept their life-style we do not accept the person. As a result, our courts are creating laws against our Constitution thereby changing our society. Our government did not define marriage, God did.

So where does the gay agenda lead? Where does the progression stop? Where do we draw the line? Is not the basis of the homosexual movement about financial “rights” or “equality”? Money. Facts show homosexuals are not monogamous. It doesn’t take deep research to find that most people in the homosexual lifestyle got there due to abuse and pain in their past. Hurt people hurt people. I myself hate “churchy” people, and it is true, we are to love God and our neighbor above all else. But just like a parent will teach his child right vs wrong, and lead them to that which is in their best interest, out of love, are we to accept actions contrary to God’s righteousness or what is in society’s best interest to show love? Is that really love? Where the conservatives and the church have failed is to maintain love for the person while not accepting behavior which is destructive. You don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Acceptance without compromise was the quest of Jesus. He showed love to the outcast, followed by telling them to stop sinning. He never compromised. He always accepted the sinner without accepting the sin. I’ve had gay friends…I’ve had divorced friends…I’ve had religious friends. Believe it or not, though he hates our sin, God loves each and every person.

This leads back to my first question…where does all this acceptance mentality lead? I think the evidence of that is coming. This article states, “Earlier this year two psychologists in Canada declared that pedophilia is a sexual orientation just like homosexuality or heterosexuality.” Pedophiles now want same rights as homosexuals. So, is bestiality next?? Gay marriage proponents claim Pedophiles are a whole different discussion and would affect someone, namely the child, whereas a homosexual marriage does not affect anyone but the couple. On the surface, this sounds, sound, but is bent and deceiving. While the child is directly affected from a pedophile, children of same sex homes are just as ruinously affected…as well as children of divorce, etc. To say any action does not affect the next person is both naive and irresponsible. Does creating a law of acceptance deem the action morally right? Lest we forget…slavery was once legal and socially acceptable. “No man can give me the right to do what is wrong.” ~Abraham Lincoln

In 2 Peter 2:4-10 we are told that God did not spare angels, the ancient world before the flood, nor Sodom and Gomorrah, as they are examples of what is going to happen to the ungodly. Jesus said in Luke 17:22-37 that the end times will be as the days of Lot and describes what will happen. Jude 1:7 says Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion…which translates homosexuality. The people living in Jesus’ day understood the concept of the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah so I’m sure Jesus did not feel the need to go into detail. The account of Lot and the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah can be found in Genesis 19. Abraham pleaded for his nephew’s life so God sent two angels, in the form of men, to bring Lot out before the towns were destroyed. In verse 5, the men of the town surrounded the house and demanded Lot send the men out so they could have sex with them. Long story short…God rained down burning sulfur and destroyed the cities. Pretty much shows how God feels about that life-style. Even though God is a God of love, he is also a God of justice. If you really want to find out what God’s word says about who ends up where, check out: Revelation 21:8, Revelation 22:15, & Revelation 22:18-19. Notice he says liars will be in the same place? One notable correlation…notice the names of the cities? These two names are the root of “sodomy” from which the act of homosexuality comes from and “gonorrhea” from sexual disease. Also take note that even though God pronounced a death judgment on the towns, in his grace, he did provide an escape for any who would leave. All but Lot and his family chose to stay, clinging to their depraved lifestyle. As with any sin, any life-style, God always provides a way out.

Beyond the gay marriage issue, the best way to destroy the family is to divide mom and dad. I don’t think I need to repeat statistics of divorce here…everyone knows the numbers are too high. To counter those stats, studies now show the generation coming into adulthood these days, the Millennial Generation, prefer cohabitation to marriage. I can’t say that I don’t understand. I do. But though we know cohabitation, which leads to an even higher divorce rate, is not the answer, to a generation who grew up with no family foundation, it seems “safe”.

This post is growing like Jack & the Bean Stalk, which turns off the short attention span of today’s readers. Therefore, I won’t go into the perils of divorce again here…my first two posts on this blog described the destruction divorce leaves in the family… {1st post here} & {2nd post here}. Basically… “Children look at the family unit as a reflection of the God-head, the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the marriage, and the Holy Spirit the family unit (Eph. 5:22-33). In divorce, no matter what the cause, the family is split, and the Spirit is severed. The God-head correlation is distorted. Their security in the unity they once rested has disappeared. The consequence is a warped view of what constitutes love. Children lose sight of God’s love for them when the love of the family grows cold. They wonder how God can love them when the example of the God-head before them has split into two households.”

Last question…just who is responsible for the destruction of the family, for the downfall of our society?

The Silent Generation. The generation from WWII. With the end of the war, women donned high heals and headed to the workforce, creating the first latch-key children…the Baby-Boomers. The generation that sky-rocketed divorce. The first major separation of the family. So, that’s it. The Silent Generation fell slack in their responsibility to the family, causing the high divorce rate of the next generation. Therefore, it’s not the same-sex marriage issue of today that has caused the distortion of the family. It’s not the high divorce rate of our generation. It had to be the generation before…when mom left the kids to babysitters and entered the workforce. And yet…who do they blame? Who do their parents blame…their parents?

  • The Millennial Generation (1982-2004) blames Generation X.
  • Generation X (1965-1984) blames the Baby-Boomers.
  • The Baby-Boomers (1946-1964) blames the Silent Generation.
  • The Silent Generation (1925-1945) blames the Greatest/GI Generation.
  • The Greatest/GI Generation (1901-1924) blames the Interbellum/Lost Generation.
  • The Lost Generation (1883-1900) blames the…

(**See Reference links below)

And so on…see where this is going?

It couldn’t be my generation’s fault.

Society attempts to lessen the devastation of divorce by blame-shifting responsibility for the destruction of the Christian culture to the prior generation. The downward turn increases with each subsequent generation. Just as Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve, and God, each generation blames the prior generation; their lack of commitment; their lack of stability, they were too strict, they were too lax, etc. After all their parents were the ones who raised this dysfunctional generation. And so on…

The last question should be, just how do we fix it??

I know I have been in sin, as has every human, but through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have salvation, a way out of the city. I wouldn’t want to call good, that which we know in our hearts to be evil, just for the sake of Political Correctness. There is freedom only in truth. Only God can make a blind man see His truth…not your truth, not my truth. But we also need to be careful about “thumping” religion over their heads. God’s truth must be told in Love…for only Love covers a multitude of sins. God is a God of restoration. Forget the do’s & don’ts. Instead, recalculate. (Love that commercial!) In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus replied to the lawyer, all the laws depend on just two commandments, to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. If we get those two paths straight, our whole legal system is unnecessary. We must renew our minds and fill up with God’s love to wash out deception. Immerse ourselves in the word, which gives hope…hope for a life-style free of negative consequences. That does not mean we will not have drama…we still live in a fallen world. But we will have inner peace. The more we fill ourselves with the Love of God, the less we will be interested in the deception of self or the desire to satisfy our carnal nature…the less we will desire sin.

We cannot be good in and of ourselves. It’s only God’s goodness in us that makes us good. His grace is what rescues us from our own destruction. Meditate on this scripture: 1 John 3:1-5:12, as it showers us with the great love of our Lord. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” With His love, what more do we need?

 

1 John 3.1

 

Scripture References:

https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/English-Standard-Version-ESV-Bible/#booklist

**Generation References:

http://www.esds1.pt/site/images/stories/isacosta/secondary_pages/10%C2%BA_block1/Generations%20Chart.pdf

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/

http://www.genconnection.com/lmu/5th/List%20of%20generations%20-%20Wikipedia,%20the%20free%20encyclopedia.pdf

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2011/05/living/infographic.boomer/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation

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Warning! This memory is not for weak stomachs! But there is a point to my drama…

I’ve wanted to get this memory out for three decades. I may lose some weak stomach readers. I may make you laugh. But some stories are epic. And we always wonder…why??

Christmas Vacation ’84. My daughter was 2 ½ (middle of the terrible two’s!), and my twin boys were 9 months. I came down with a 24 hour bug mid-way through our visit, missing out on a whole day of visiting with relatives who only cared about visiting with the grandchildren. It was perfect. Three days later, on our return flight home, we flew out of Chicago where my ex-in-laws traveled the four hour trip to send us off. I guess back then, the tickets were quite a bit cheaper to fly out of Chicago than at a closer airport. Half-way to Chicago, my fastidious daughter declared she was nauseous. The poor thing up-chucked all over the back seat of her grandparents car…spraying vomit on her Grandma! While I was cleaning her up my ex ordered his dad to pull to the side of the road so he could exit the vehicle as he almost lost his innards from the smell. Men usually do have weak stomachs.

The grandparents treated us to lunch at a very nice restaurant in Chicago, and my ex still felt ill. I assumed he was still reeling from the 2 year old’s puke. Regrettably, he waited until we were half way up in the air to decide his innards were not staying inside. The stewardess told him to return to his seat, to which he asked if she wanted him to hurl in the isle. Stepping aside, she let him go to the restroom…during the ascension. I was too busy wrangling three babies by myself to care if he had his seat belt on or dangled out the window! He then continued to vomit throughout the whole flight, using every barf bag on the plane. I wonder how much those lined tiny little bags cost…

About half way home, 40,000 feet or so up in the bright blue sky, my 9 month old decided to get sick…from the other end! Do you know how small those old airplane restrooms are?? There is no imagination wide enough to envision me cleaning diarrhea off a very active baby in an old airplane bathroom!! The toilet water was blue, with no lid, thank you very much. The sink was not large enough to wash hands properly, much less a whole baby. He kicked. It flew. That’s all I am going to say about that. Thank goodness we had baby wipes back then. In case you are wondering, I did leave the tiny restroom sterile, along with his butt.

One more little person to go…

An hour later, back in our seats, on our descent down, I smelled it again. Of course. After all, they are identical twins! We did not have booster seats back then, in the “stone ages”, so he was on the airplane seat. A cloth airplane seat. Now, a wet cloth airplane seat. I would not risk taking my baby to the tiny little restroom due to the plane descending, as most accidents happen on ascent or descent. So the seat got…more…wet.

Oh, the stares…the glares…the rejection! I waited until everyone vamoosed off the plane before grabbing my puking-pooping little family and headed for the nearest airport restroom. Again…there is no imagination wide enough to envision me changing a wiry 9 month old boy on the restroom floor (before the days of baby changing stations) in the Houston International Airport! My good friend who picked us up at the airport stood in front of us with the skirt of her sundress spread wide to keep the onlookers from looking. The midnight travelers were quite entertained…I was simply humiliated so bad I could not stop laughing. We were a first class three-ring circus. If you ever find someone who will live through that kind of smell with you…keep that friend for life!!

Oh…and to top that off…

We finally arrived home, it was midnight, and we had no food in the house due to us being gone the previous week. So after tucking every sick little body in bed, I headed for the store. The only reason I ventured out at 2:00am on that very foggy night was due to having only one vehicle…which my ex took to work every day, leaving me stranded in nowhereville with three babies. I drove to the edge of the neighborhood, about four blocks from home, and the car sputtered and died. Someone had siphoned our gas while we were on vacation! After walking through fog so thick you could cut it with a knife, I woke up my ex, who woke our neighbor back up, who took him to the gas station for gas…and milk.

Three months later…we moved four states away… 🙂

I’ve often wondered why. What possesses a person to endure this kind of drama…and yet, the next morning, hug, hold, kiss, and love the little ones God entrusted us. Motherhood. Hormones. The beauty of creation.

God, in his love, showed me a picture of His love. We puke on our creator, and he still loves us. We poop on his creation, and he still loves us. Yes, human parents are fallible. They screw up. Sometimes big-time. Sometimes, human parents don’t love their children. Sometimes parents physically or emotionally hurt their kids. Yet, God’s parental love is infallible. Perfect. God created the human parent-child love as a glimpse of his love for us. That gives me hope. No matter how far into sin that child (us) falls, God still loves his children. When every relationship on this sin-ravaged planet falls away, our creator God, in his grace, longs for us…for me…for you…

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” ~Matthew 7:7-8

 

Three Babies…

Momma & Babies

 

More babies…

Baby Kittens

 

And more babies…

Baby Bunnies

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Is Your Memory a Blessing…Or Curse?

Great Aunt Mildred was a cantankerous old soul, quite stern in all her mannerisms. Every family has at least one sinister relative. And yet, there was something rather comforting about my old aunt. As a child, we visited the orphanage she helped run deep in the back hills of Eastern Kentucky. And, of course, being young and trusting, I believed the stories I heard from another close relative: Aunt Mildred was terribly unpleasant. Yet, when I talked to her, I had a distinct suspicion otherwise…

Years after her death while talking to my Grandma about family history, she gave some interesting insight about the life of my Great Aunt Mildred. We talked about her years of ministry and service to the indigent deep within the Kentucky hills. Not only was she a school teacher, but also a nurse who was responsible for traveling by donkey deep in those hills to deliver 267 babies throughout her lifetime, all without the aid of a doctor. There was no child she turned away. There was no call for help left unanswered. What a wonderful heritage to leave our family!

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.”

~Proverbs 10:7

In God’s faithfulness, he made sure the memory of my aunt became a blessing, in spite of the hearsay from one who only sought to destroy. The tables were turned! King David often asked the Lord, “How long Lord?” The Lord’s timing is not our timing, but His plan is always perfect…even if that plan does not come to fruition until long after we are gone.

Don’t fret your reputation…Rest in the Lord’s faithfulness today.

EPSON scanner image

Pictures are Memories to Remember

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Diaries, Journals, Poetry, & Secrets

I love poetry. But unless you’re one of those sweetie pie buttercups or deep dark depressing kind of people, you’re generally not going to sit and read a novel of poetry in your alone time. On the rare occasions that time comes, I’d rather curl up in my afghan with Louis L’Amour or Max Brand on a snowy night in my rocker by an open fire. Now that’s heaven!

But, occasionally, I’ll pop open something with meter and rhyme. That’s my journal. It’s safe. I only kept a “Diary” once as a kid. I began writing poetry notes after my sister found my diary and blabbed to the world how infatuated I was with what’s-his-name. Humph. (Oh yes, everyone has one of those relatives.) With poetry, one can write deep dark secrets in code…poetry code. Not many “get it”. But to those who do…one can hop into a whole ‘nother world. So, I thought I’d go out on a limb in this post and give you a smidgeon…

Like the leaves that grow
on a tree in spring,
words from a poet,
joy to our hearts bring.

When winter is past,
silent words inside,
come out in full bloom,
sing poetry’s pride.

My mother typically complained that no one ever did anything for her. I have pictures from the early 90’s showing lots of people gathered in the Shaffer’s neighborhood clubhouse, decorated with balloons, candles, streamers, and 50 candles on the cake (all at my expense). However, the only thing you will hear from her is how everyone forgot her half-century birthday. **Sigh**

I remember one Mother’s Day back in the same time frame, I was asked to take part in the proverbial church program. I don’t recall the name of the song the director picked for my solo, but it was about a mother’s love, and I was surrounded with the kids on the platform. My vocal chords were in full swing that morning, which is strange since most mornings I’m lucky to get out a gurgle. Along with that song, I wrote and recited this poem expressing my vision of motherhood:

A Mother’s Legacy

A visit long ago,
memories deep in my mind.
Peach cobbler, apple pie,
made with hands old and kind.

Asleep in her bosom,
Grandma would slowly rock,
humming, “My child love on”
not a thought of the clock.

My mother’s loving care,
for each button to sew,
deep in the night she worked,
that I might steal the show.

So proud of each success,
as if it were her own.
When failure would descend,
she then made her love known.

With children of my own,
this legacy to pass.
Careers, sitters, day care!
Button up! Off to class!

No time for soft moments.
precious time we misuse.
Society’s pressure,
priorities to choose.

Will children call me blessed?
The Lord’s ways have I taught?
Did I take out the time
to instruct as I ought?

Asleep on my bosom,
my grandchild I now rock,
humming, “My child love on”
not a thought of the clock.

The “code”?? Can you feel the security in a grandma’s care? Can you see the love of a mother who is available to help make costumes for her child’s 1st grade school play? Can you feel the frustration of not having the same experience with her own children for the busyness of modern life? Can you sense the pendulum swing back around as she loves on her own grandchild? Did you catch the codes?

Poetry can be reflections of our realities…more often; poetry is a reflection of our dreams.

On that Mother’s Day…church was overflowing with mothers everywhere…

Except mine…she didn’t show up that Sunday…

 Poetry Journal

My Rambling Mind…

Browsing today, I saw a picture of my family when I was probably about eight years old. Boy was I an ugly child. For some reason, my mother always had me in short funky 60’s hair styles, while my sister was left to longer hair. I don’t know if it was because mother thought we each looked better in the differing styles, to which I beg to differ, or if she simply did not cut my sister’s hair because of her blood curdling screams to anyone who came close to her with a brush.

I’m not sure what that paragraph has to do with anything…just my evening thoughts.

Yesterday, I took the q-tip jar and dropped it on a candle in a shell tin on the bathroom sink. It was a granddaddy long leg. I trapped it between the two…smashing it flat. After my shower, quite frankly, I forgot about it…until tonight. At first, I could not remember why the q-tip jar was on the candle tin, but recalling the monstrous beast, I decided it was high time I disposed of its carcass. Upon lifting the q-tip jar, the growing monster revived itself. I don’t know if I am more upset that the spider lived a whole 24 hours trapped between two deadly boulders, or that the q-tips were jostled out of position when I dropped the jar upon the spider’s revival. I immediately grabbed a tissue to squash it, which inevitably pulled out every last one in the box, thereby wasting precious time, allowing the monstrous spider to escape.

I cannot find the dastardly beast anywhere. I don’t know if I will be visiting that bathroom any time soon…

Poor Sammy…she is trying her best to lounge on my lap. Unfortunately, my lap is taken with my laptop. Rejected, she is pouting from across the room…staring at me with the best dejected look she can muster up. Kitty…I know the feeling…

Sammy

The game is on. Now…they don’t just play on Sunday’s. We get to see overly sized men in tight pants running around on fake grass chasing a little blown up piece of leather on Monday’s and Thursday’s too! My husband calls me a “fair-weather” fan. I believe I am a true fan. Just because I am bored when the team plays like crap or “my” team is not playing…

But I do enjoy the acrobatics…did you see the guy who made a touchdown with a somersault?? Classic!

I’m not sure what all these thoughts are collectively expressing. Probably nothing. Just like the commercial I just saw where the girl was talking a mile a minute. Obviously, no one was impressed. I know a few people like that. Just a lot of absolutely nothing. I’m sure it’s the same with this blog. We saw a movie last May with the perfect analogy of my blog; I’m so excited, today I have three followers! Which is good because yesterday I had four!

It’s been suggested that I use my blog as my journal. That sounded like a great idea! Until…flashbacks of my childhood ran through my mind…my sister would inevitably find my diary and blab its contents to the whole world. Nope. I don’t journal.

I do write…sometimes. In code. Everyone needs an outlet. I started with poetry. Start somewhere. Roses are red…violets are…you get the gist. Release. Even if no one sees except God…who sees everything whether you like it or not. But if He still accepts you no matter what you write…then write. Just write…

Unconfessed Sin ~ My Thoughts on Forgiveness…

YES! When no one else will…the Lord gives forgiveness, grace, and mercy! He loves us!

And yet, most people do not think about an unforgiving God. He is a forgiving God, a loving God, a just God…and yes, an unforgiving God. Even though that thought should scare most people, it doesn’t. The most direct indication of times when God does not forgive is in the words of Jesus during his sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:5-15). God says we are to forgive…so that we can be forgiven. Otherwise, he will not forgive us. Why will he not forgive us if we do not forgive others? Because, God cannot look upon sin. And unforgiveness…is sin.

God is a God of reconciliation and restoration. But true relationship is built on trust. Since we live in a fallen world, with a carnal nature, no human is perfect. Our relationship with the Lord begins with a confession of our own sin. Without an admission of our faults, we cannot begin the restoration process. This is true with any relationship. Jesus said to Ask, Seek, Knock. Then we will find. (Matthew 7:7) Forgiveness works the same whether it be man or God. If I have wronged someone, or they have wronged me, without confession and repentance first, then reconciliation, and finally restoration, we will always have broken relationship.

We’ve all heard the quote to addicts that the first step to recovery is in admitting to the problem. If we do not admit to our guilt in the relationship, any relationship, we hide behind lies. For no one is without guilt. A relationship based on lies is no relationship at all. 1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Yes, it all begins with our own humility. Then and only then will the relationship be open for restoration.

Confession (or ‘fessing up to our wrongs) is that which makes us humble and gives us a pride reduction. How often do we (speaking for myself as well) hide, or justify, or blame-shift our sins? Not only is it humbling to admit when we have messed up…it’s embarrassing! We even throw the “you just can’t take anything, I was only joking” card because we have too much pride to admit our own wrong. We want to ignore and excuse our own sin by throwing it under the rug. At the same time we expect everyone else to forget our offense, forgive and go on, without repentance, as if no wrong was done. We even claim the person we hurt is unforgiving and self-centered if the pain we inflicted is not simply ignored. That, my friend, is blame-shifting and making excuses to justify our actions. I think we have all done that a time or two. Throwing the responsibility of the relationship rift onto the other person, while ignoring our own wrongs, simply negates reconciliation.

 

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forgive

/fəˈɡɪv/

verb -gives, -giving, -gave, -given

  1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something)

Word Origin

Old English forgiefan ; see for-, give

The modern sense of “to give up desire or power to punish” is from use of the compound as a Germanic loan-translation of Latin perdonare.

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The best way to keep in close relationship with God is to be at peace with others, even those whom I have wronged. Sometimes, that means I may have to humble myself and admit I really messed up…which seems to happen pretty often. But to keep any hard feelings or resentment out of my relationships, I need to let them know that I know I messed up…and apologize. And then, their forgiveness is their responsibility, not ours. My responsibility is to admit my wrongs, ask forgiveness, and attempt to make amends. The rest is up to them. But, remember, we have no right to be concerned with the other person’s heart until we have cleared our own first.

What if others do not forgive us? What if they always harbor resentment? Then, I still need to do my part. Their heart, their forgiveness, is their responsibility.

What if I am the one who is hurt, and the offender never admits or repents for the hurt and pain they inflicted? What if they move away or die before the relationship can be reconciled? It is essential for us to be willing and ready to forgive others to have freedom in our own hearts and to keep bitterness from creeping in. We do not negate the sin, but we continue to treat them with kindness while we wait for the Lord to open their hearts to repentance. The sin is still there, but we need to release to God our right for punishment and/or revenge. The relationship may always be broken and the trust shattered, but our hearts need to be free of vengeance and always be ready to forgive, just as we have assurance of God’s forgiveness for our own sins.

So, we must forgive to be forgiven. Don’t misunderstand, forgiveness does not negate or dismiss the sin. Sin is still sin. The other person is still responsible to God for their sin. For us to forgive means to release to God our right for punishment and/or revenge for the wrongs done to us. We free ourselves of the responsibility of judgment against another. Why must we forgive others in order to be forgiven ourselves? Because, when we hold bitterness, anger, or hatred in our hearts, we are essentially playing God. In our pride, we forget our own sin as we focus on the sins of others. When we release others of recompense and repent of our own sin, God’s forgiveness flows through our hearts and His Joy floods our souls!

If we have unforgiving hearts, we have sinful hearts. Let’s let God deal with the hearts of others. Release them and let it go. Then, when we admit to our own faults and ask God for forgiveness, He is always eager to forgive, just as a loving father forgives his child. We have but to ask. Even though God is just, he is also love. “You do not have to get cleaned up to take a bath!” He is not asking for our perfection…that’s why he sent Jesus to die for us…he is only asking for our hearts so he can pour in his love.

Repentance must go with Forgiveness

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Scriptures to ponder:

~ Psalm 32:5
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

~ Matthew 5:23-24
“So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Come to terms quickly with your enemy before it is too late…” (He doesn’t say, “Only if your realities line up do you apologize.” He said be reconciled. Admit. Apologize.)

~ Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

~ Romans 12:9-21
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

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**Yes, the pictures are mine! 😉

Job’s Three Friends

What kind of friend are you?

My Three Friends!

My Three Friends!

“Listen to advice and accept instruction,
that you may gain wisdom in the future.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:20-21

I have a couple of close friends who are not afraid to tell me when I am going down the wrong path. Sometimes, I just want to smack ’em for telling me what I don’t want to hear…but I love them for speaking truth in my life. I know they are not speaking from their own selfish desires, but from God’s word. They are not speaking from conventional etiquette…they are speaking from God’s heart. (You my friends know who you are…)

The book of Job shows God’s perspective. Not everything we experience is of our own doing. Not every situation can be explained by man. Not everything we go through will even be explained by God. If you notice at the end of the story, God does not give Job a reason for his affliction. Yet, God explains to Job man is small and finite, compared to the infinite and all-knowing God. God is omnipotent and omniscient. He made the Behemoth and the Leviathan (40:15 & 41:1). God asked Job if he was present when God laid the earth’s foundation (38:4). God reminds us that everything under heaven belongs to him (41:11). Job and his three friends tried unsuccessfully to explain his plight though they did not understand anything beyond their own reasoning (42:3)…a reasoning which came from a limited world view. God says in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Therefore, unless God himself reveals wisdom, how can we assume to have insight to difficulties others are experiencing? How can we give or receive proper advice?

When Job spoke, he was in a pity-party mode. His discourse sought self-justification, to which God replied in 40:8, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” Job tried to put God in his little box. How often do we blame-shift on others to explain the troubles in our lives? “Well, I wouldn’t be going through this or that if they wouldn’t have done this or that!” Even more so, how often do we blame-shift on God? We all do. Or sometimes we feel God is punishing us for some unknown sin. Generally speaking, the saying, “what goes around comes around” is true. Yes, God will bring justice. But not everything that happens in life is the result of anything we or someone else did. Jesus pointed this out in John 9:1-7 to the disciples who attributed the man’s blindness on him or his parents. Before healing the man, Jesus said “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” It was the same with Job, “So that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

“By pride comes nothing but strife,
But with the well-advised is wisdom.” Proverbs 13:10

The problem with Job’s three friends is they spoke from man’s wisdom. They spoke from a works based mentality. Their assessment of the situation came from their own experience, traditions, and self-centered view. How many times do we advise someone they are required to do this or that due to church standards? How often do we give advice based on our own background or station in life, or to please others? Oh, “but it’s for the sake of the kids!” Or, “you can’t disappoint your momma!” As with the case of Job, we also are unaware of events in the heavenly realms that affect mankind (Job 1:6-7). Do we heed the advice of friends who ignore that God may have plans that go against man’s conventional wisdom? Against our traditions…no matter who it affects?

When I think of God going against man’s conventional wisdom, I am reminded of how God must have had fun giving the traditional family “Blessing” to the younger child rather than the older, a tradition which God himself set up. Jacob and Esau were the most popular siblings whose “Blessing” was reversed. So who are we to question? Is not the creator allowed to create as he sees fit? Several times in my life, I have been given advice from very well meaning Christian people that seemed right, and may have been full of love to not hurt anyone, only to find out later events were going on behind the scenes which I was unaware that put a completely different spin on the situation. Because a way seems right to us, does not mean that God does not have a better plan. Nor do we pick and choose what God speaks according to our own agenda. Either God says everything or he says nothing. When we trust the Holy Spirit to guide, even in decisions which may initially hurt some, God will always work it out for our good (Romans 8:28). When we give or receive advice which comes from self-centeredness, advice that is man-pleasing, or advice based on one-sided information, God cannot do the work in our lives that will bring about our ultimate good.

Are we never to listen to advice? No. But we sift the words from trusted friends and relatives with the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, no matter how contrary God’s voice is to common traditions. We must have God as our ultimate priority…over everyone. Everyone. Even if what God tells us goes contrary to those closest to us. For Jesus said if we put anyone, even mother, father, son, or daughter above all else, we are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:32-39). We need to consider the source. From what viewpoint is the advice coming from? The one person who gave acceptable advice was Elihu. He is not mentioned as one of Job’s friends…or as a relative. Elihu is not deemed as one to be heeded due to his age. He is young. Yet, 32:8 says, “But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives understanding.” God’s spirit; not age, not having a PHD behind your name, not worldly learning, or learning from theological seminaries, not even eloquence; but it is God’s Holy Spirit which gives wisdom and understanding. When we seek or give advice, do we seek through prayer for wisdom through God’s spirit, or do we seek advice through our friends/relatives wisdom?

What is amazing about Job’s whole story is the statement Elihu made in Job 34:21, “His eyes are on the ways of men, he sees their every step.” God is shown to be more majestic than we can comprehend, yet he loves us enough to know our every step. At the end of the book, God restores. Love only wants that which is in our best interest, not their interest, even though we may go through times of great pain. The horrible affliction Job experienced was not only for his own good, but for ours as well. To learn lessons of God’s majesty, loyalty, love. In the end, Job was restored twice over for that which was forfeited.

That’s love.

 

we_is_friends

Hell…a place.

Hell.  Fire man

A foul word.

A very real place.

Can you smell it?

Can you feel it?

Life is a vapor.

Yes, there is always life: Eternal life. We simply walk through the door to the other side. Do we choose the red pill or the blue pill? We will live on. The quote, “Once you’re dead, you’re dead.” only applies to our chance at life. Death is final. Physical death is very final. Yet we live on. Our spirit will endure…Forever…But where? The one tested, tried, and true theory is a place called Heaven, conversing with our Creator on streets of gold. But most ignore the inverse. The same entity which foretold Heaven…foretold the fires of Hell: A torrid place: A very real place: A place for all liars: The root of bad drama. Have you lied to the Creator? He knows your heart. He knows the evil we spew. Yet, He still loves us. He loves us so much that He poured out grace. We will never be able to overcome the consequences of our sin nature…so He died in our place. He paid our debt. And yet, He is patient. He lets us dwell in the midst of our evil, giving us chance after chance to choose…to choose life or death. To choose between truth…or lies. Heaven or Hell. A very real place. Can you smell it? Can you feel it? Life is a vapor…

Fire mishap

Choose…

Woman at the Well

Is it a lack of faith to “bug” God?

Big question of the day: Do we bug him or sit and wait? Isn’t he all knowing? But what if he is busy?

In reading the parable of the persistent widow, it would seem that Jesus was saying we need to be persistent, bugging God continually with our requests. In his scenario, the unjust Judge grants her request because he is bothered by her constant badgering. The point of his parable though is to let us know that God will do even more for his children than an unjust Judge.

So where is faith? Wouldn’t it seem that bugging God is showing a lack of faith on our part, like he won’t or can’t take care of us? No, the faith is to where we take our requests. God wants us to rely on Him, not because he is co-dependent or controlling, but because we cannot follow two masters. We humans are so easily led down the fun path…to destruction. So by clinging on God’s shirttail, we cling to safety. By continually seeking Him for our needs, through prayer, we are totally focused on His will and not our own desires.

But we must have faith…faith in His ability…faith in His will. Trust.

Faith & Trust.

God works for the good of those that love Him.

Why? Because we are His children.

 

“Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10 (MSB)

Romans 8.28

The Parable of the Persistent Widow~ Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

What is unconditional??

Someone once told me that because I did not trust him that I did not possess unconditional love.

Another once told me that because I did not ignore the wrongs they inflicted on me that I had an unforgiving heart.

Both said I was not biblical. Yet, could they back up their position on actual scripture??

Just what are “biblical” love, trust, and forgiveness? Does anyone really know for sure? Depending on the situation, I’ve had some of the most asinine excuses. Some were quite laughable. Unfortunately, even seasoned Christians sometimes use these guilt tactics to further their own cause. I think we are all guilty at times.

Ask yourself a few quick questions and check to see in what context they are using scripture in their accusations: Do they pull out the words that would enhance their point of view while ignoring the full context? Are they pulling the “Love” card to shift the topic? Do they pull the “forgiveness” card because there is something they do not want to admit?

So, let’s refer back to the bible… Yes, Jesus said to turn the other cheek. He also said to brush the dust off your feet and leave town if they do not believe truth. Jesus said to go the extra mile and give until it hurts. But he also overturned the money-changers in the temple…very angrily I might add. (Luke 6:29-31 & Matt 10:14 & John 2:13-17) So which is it? Are we to be doormats or angry at sin?

I know it all sounds contradictory…hypocritical…two-faced. But really, it’s not. It’s both. You see, there is great strength in Love. There are boundaries in forgiveness. And God in his awesomeness gives us the Holy Spirit…for some good ole fashioned common sense!!

I am reminded of what is called “The Love Chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13. The middle of the chapter gives the definition of Love:

Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Do you see that? The two highlighted lines? Most of the description is about simply being “nice”, a character trait which I agree most in our society has totally forgotten. But the two highlighted lines are simply ignored by people with an agenda. Love puts others best interests above themselves. That also means we sometimes need to say things that make us very unpopular, an act that is almost impossible for non-confrontational people. Love will not ignore, excuse, or gloss over truth in the name of grace. Love is grace in truth.

And trust? Trust and love are not synonymous. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men.” Doesn’t sound too trusting to me! And then God says in Jeremiah 17:5 “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” Wow! So much for trust! Oh, but then, He goes on to say, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord.” So, there you go. We do trust. But we are to be selective as to where we put that trust. Why? So we are not led astray into the abyss of someone else’s control. Because…that’s not love. We trust men…only when they are saturated in God’s truth…in God’s Love. In essence, we are trusting God through men.

And yes, we all need to forgive, but Love will not accuse another of unforgiveness to cover up their own sin. A wrong against another is still wrong. Forgiveness frees up the anger in our own soul. Forgiveness does not negate the wrong, forgiveness negates revenge. God will take care of judgment. When we hold unforgiveness, we are in essence playing God. But we are never to gloss over sin in the name of forgiveness. God will still hold them accountable, we only need to be concerned with our own hearts.

How do we see love? Watch their actions. Do they serve others? Do they expect anything in return? Do they expect credit for their deeds? Are they critical of others? Are they kind? Do they stand for the truth…no matter who gets upset? Do they defend the “little” guy? Do they always give second chances (without negating the wrongs)? We always knew Aunt Bee (The Andy Griffith Show) loved everyone, why? Because she was always doing for others….but without expecting anything in return. Because she wanted to, not because she felt forced. We could see her heart. And yet, God does not even care about the actions…he cares about the heart.

Love does not promote itself, but will stand firm. Love is unselfish. Love is strength in truth.

Renee in Grapevine Tunnel at Pebble Hill Plantation Nov 2007

From Dumb & Dumber to Loved & Lovely

We watched the 90’s flick…

 Dumb & Dumber

Dumb & Dumber

last night. It’s one of those movies…well, let’s just say the name fits. It’s so dumb it’s hilarious!

In the last scene, the two friends are walking aimlessly along a sparse highway when stops a tour bus full of bikini beauty contestants. The boys are “dumb-founded” by their beauty. The girls sheepishly say they are looking for a couple of good looking guys to accompany them across the country simply to oil all the girls before each pageant. Every boy’s dream, right?! But, true to the name of the movie, they are ever so grateful to help the girls by directing them to the next town instead of hopping on the bus. So the dumb-founded girls hop back on the bus and head off into the sunset. The movie ends with Lloyd and Harry talking about how two guys in the next town will be very lucky fellows!

Missed opportunities. Misunderstood opportunities. How often do we overlook opportunities because we have such a low self-value we couldn’t possibly believe anything that good could be right for us?

Psalm 139 says we are wonderfully made, that God was there when we were woven together in the secret places, and He knew everything about us before we were born. And he still loves us. How awesome is that? Psalm 27:10 says he has adopted us as his own. Romans 8:38-39 says absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Jeremiah 29:11 says he has wonderful plans for our lives. Jesus says in John 10:10 he came to give us life…life to the full!

So, why is it so easy to believe the lie that we are just not worth it? Satan is the father of all lies. And we believed him. We believed we were worthless in God’s eyes. We believed we would never measure up to His “rules”. Those rules that show us just how utterly sinful we really are. For God looks at the heart (Psalm 51). That little white lie we told is still a lie. No matter how good we are in the world’s eyes, we are still little heathens in God’s law. So we deserve nothing. Absolutely nothing. Why try for that promotion at work? Our co-worker has a better chance. Why try to befriend anyone or fix that broken relationship? They won’t like us anyway. Why would we see anything good come our way? We believe the lie…

But then…there’s this thing called grace.

That five letter word. Grace. God’s grace. Jesus. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17. We were given mercy. Another five letter word. Mercy. He gently restores us, washing us clean. We are worthy! But…we know. We know the scriptures. We understand the power of sin was busted when Jesus died for us…and rose. We know.

But do we believe? Truly believe?

Did we let His love sink into the depths of our hearts?

We will never be perfect. We will let others down. And others will let us down. Others will believe lies about us, and spread lies. We will hurt for the sin in the world which we live. We are still human. But our mistakes do not define us in God’s eyes. Philippians 3:12-13 says we are not perfect, but we press on. We are not there yet, but we forget (let go of) what is behind…and look ahead.

So we screwed up. So…repent. Admit. Let go of our pride. Repent. Why?

Because God forgives. God redeems. God restores.

Though the world may never accept us…God already did. Our condemnation has been eradicated. Satan spread the lies. Jesus brought the truth. Through repentance and forgiveness, we are His. But, we also need to forgive. Matthew 6:14-15 says God forgives as we forgive. OK…we want to go to heaven…so we forgive those who offended, hurt, and even destroyed us. Though there may be consequences to our sins, God will give us the grace needed to build a new life. Forgiveness from us is a releasing of our right for payment for the offense to God. We release the offender. God will vindicate. Hate is poison. Release them to God in forgiveness. But is that enough?

I must forgive me.

Forgive myself? But isn’t that arrogant? No. Any time we withhold forgiveness, we are playing God. Holding grudges is control. Not accepting God’s forgiveness for our repentant sins only leads to self-destruction. We must not only ask forgiveness, we must accept, and give forgiveness, even for ourselves. Only then will the power of love wash us through and through. Clean.

And we are worth it. God’s love says we are worth it.

And all those scriptures? All those opportunities? Yes…they are for me…they are for you!

Psalm 139

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

 004a

“You’re a bad mother! But Happy Mother’s Day anyway.”

What does it take to be a good mother? Perfection? And whose perspective of perfection do we strive to achieve? Yours? The Governments? Or possibly, that perfection of the “Proverbs 31 Woman” the church promotes?

We went to the movies this Mother’s Day…and we saw a Mother’s Day movie…just because. Normally, I would only pay money at the theater to see movies where the action is lost on my home TV. But the previews looked pretty good, and I was in the mood to smile. Moms’ Night Out actually made us laugh, relate, laugh, and relate some more! It’s lighthearted fun. Yet, the mainstream criticism hurled at the movie was directed to the mom’s choice of staying at home…and homeschooling. The movie actually celebrates mothers. It has a good plot, good actors, and good quality cinematography, and of course, Trace Adkins stole the show! What’s not to love? Yet, some just had to complain. And complain. And complain some more.

Our culture has reversed. Before the industrial revolution, mothers were ridiculed and condemned for working outside the home. Now…mothers are ridiculed and condemned for staying home…and mothering. When my kids were young, I was pretty good with my replies to belittling questions such as, “What do you do?” followed by blank looks of boredom. Like I actually sat on my derrière all day watching soap operas and eating Bonbons! I was busier during the times I spent my days “playing house” than when I brought home a bona fide paycheck! But our culture does not put great worth in mothers who choose the “old fashioned” life, the “lazy” life, the sacrificial life. So…we leave our children to the arms of another and climb the corporate ladder.

My reply? “I’m a Domestic Engineer and CEO of a corporation responsible for training future agents to aid in our quest for a better society.” I liked it.

Momma's Love Never Ends

I’m not against women working. Sound contradictory?? I occasionally worked. And occasionally…full time. Sometimes it is necessary. But mostly…not. Do we really need the material life? The deciding factor is in the priorities. Proverbs 31 gives a pretty good description of the kind of woman God appreciates. Does she sit at home wasting away? No. Does she shove her husband and children off to build her own empire? No. She works…for her family. Proverbs 30:8 says to give me neither riches nor poverty. Balance and priorities…lost treasured words.

So, does being a stay-at-home mom always produce perfect little adults? No. Though time proves most healthy adults are produced from solid, secure childhoods with one parent who is a “constant” in the child’s life. Thus, the biggest reason divorce is so destructive to the family. Divorce automatically creates a single parent home. Yet, there are no guarantees. I have often seen good kids come out of bad homes and bad kids come out of good homes.

Part of the degradation of the stay-at-home mom is a longing for control of our children. If our children are placed in the hands of outsiders, we have lost our future. And the societal parent-bashing begins. Do parents really know best? Have you watched TV lately? In the past decade? The parent in our society has been dubbed the recipient of demeaning jokes, especially the father. Parental rights are diminishing. Even our president has turned over to the “experts” teaching his daughters the century old art of driving a car. One of my fondest memories is the day my dad took me to the local race track when I was only 14 and let me have the wheel. Oh sure, the track was closed, and we were in an empty parking lot so it wasn’t as exciting as actually driving on the track, but I was with my dad. Who do we want our kids to look back and remember being by their side throughout their childhood?

When normal childhood problems arise, do we help or hinder?

Our society claims bad behavior is the parents’ fault. We are masters at blame-shifting. If we take responsibility for our actions, we may be right…but we may also be wrong. Blame-shifting our problem on others is a characteristic rooted in pride. And that pride thingy won’t allow us to be wrong! But, shifting personal responsibility from children to those in authority is inadvertent control. When we cannot control ourselves, we attempt to control others. Parental boundaries are crossed…by our family, our friends, and especially by our government. Our over-reaching government seeks to eliminate families altogether. I see headlines almost daily reporting on parents being threatened with their child’s removal from their home from a child service worker on a witch hunt. The most effective wave today is through medical blackmail.

Everyone, especially our government, seems to know what’s best for little Johnny…disregarding the very people who brought him into the world. Authority bashing becomes fair game. So little Johnny grows up lacking in allegiance to family…his allegiance is transferred to self, and anyone who can fill his desires.

Global Warming? Terrorism? Natural Disasters? No…the greatest threat to our country is the breakdown of the family. When parental boundaries are crossed, whether it be by a relative, teacher, or the government, the child formulates a belief that their parents’ values are worthless. This belief eventually spills over into their remaining authority figures. Our court systems and jails are full of those who believe they are above the law, those who believe they are wiser than the learned, and therefore, they are unlearned. Stats show that more than 80% of inmates come from broken homes. We have more laws on the books than ever in our history, and our country is more incarcerated than any other on the planet. Morality cannot be legislated.

What about those closer to home that cause division in our homes? Not only do we have our government interfering in our families, we have school teachers, physicians, and yes…relatives.

The popular philosophy of parent-bashing hits all levels of society. Parent-bashing is a phenomenon that reverberates not only from rebellious child to parent, but from parent to child to grandchild…even in the most of subtle ways. Grand-parenting is easy. You load them up with hugs, love, and send them home. Right? Except sometimes, the love is self-promoting, placing the grandparent over the parent and thereby dividing the parental relationship. Little Johnny brings home a horrible grade in school due to his homework negligence…and Grandpa tells him to ignore Mommy’s reprimand because Mommy made bad grades too. Little Susie insists on attending a party with very questionable characters, and when Daddy says no, Grandma pulls in the drive to give her a ride. And what disciplines does little Johnny learn? What character trait does little Susie pick up?

I have seen whole families torn apart, separated, and divorced due to a grandparent or two who insist on being the primary love in the child’s life. Jesus said, “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” And he says in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” Unfortunately, I have seen this in my lifetime. People do not put others above themselves. I have seen grandparents lie to and about their own children, turning the family against them in order to take control of their grandchildren, so that the grandparent will be the center of their grandchild’s world. Lies disintegrates trust that takes a lifetime to rebuild. Grandparents remove personal responsibility from the grandchildren and blame-shift on the generation caught in-between. If that interfering grandparent were an exemplary parent themselves, there would be no need to interfere in the parent/child relationship, for the parent would automatically be a great parent. If the grandparent does not agree with the parenting philosophy of their own children, maybe they should realize that they were the very people who raised the parents, and may not be qualified to give unwarranted advice! The presence, influence, and mentor-ship of the extended family, especially the grandparents, are very important and imperative in the development of children, but never to the extent of over-ruling the parent. Grand-Parental interference not only will destroy the parent/child relationship, left unchecked, it will destroy the whole family.

One of the best books I have read on the role of a grandparent is: A Call to Grandparenting, by Mark Adcock which celebrates the role of the grandparent. Again…it boils down to balance.

Sadly, many divorced parents lie and brainwash their children against their ex, severing their child’s relationships with the other parent, usually the father, out of jealousy and revenge, especially if the ex has remarried. These interferences cause years of broken relationships…and since God is a God of Justice…the damage done eventually and always will backfire. Eventually children grow up and most of the time will figure out where the lies lie. The anger and rejection grown children felt against the parent who was lied about will then transfer to the parent/grandparent behind the lies. And sadly, without forgiveness, more broken relationships ensue. Maybe we would not have as many broken relationships if we took to heart Jesus’ words to heart; “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Encouraging a child to turn against a parent for your own benefit, to hold them closer to you, is causing a little one to sin. Period.

Most people don’t realize that even God taught each person is responsible for their own sin and their own actions. If we continually enable our children to escape responsibility for their actions, how will they ever come to the place where they realize they need forgiveness? If we do not teach our children proper authority structure in the home, how will they learn to respect outside authority? If we turn our children against a parent to benefit ourselves, how will they learn structure? Even atheists believe there is structure in nature. Without structure, children do not learn respect for others, which leads to self-centered lives, which leads to an “anything goes” morality, which finally leads to chaos and death.

No one describes the pain of broken relationships better than Rich Mullins in his song: We are not as strong as we think we are…

Rich Mullins Songs

Now, what do the above paragraphs have to do with complaints about mothers not working outside of the home? It’s all in the priorities and the covenant of the nuclear family. The big question is; what does it look like to selflessly want the best for others, especially our children? How do we show unselfish love? Most of the time, it means simply to mind our own business! From our government all the way down to our relatives. When we only take responsibility for that which is our responsibility, not only will our lives be more peaceful, but our relationships with others will be richer. Most of the time, this philosophy requires a dose of common sense. Naturally, if you see physical abuse, you need to step forward and intervene. But, most of the time, divisions in families are caused by selfishness in those who are determined to control others. When little Johnny or little Susie have an issue, step back and let the parent be a parent first. Your grandchildren, students, citizens will respect you more if they have their root in the parent-bond.

Let us put some order back into our society.

Let’s let the parent be the parent.

Let’s stop demoralizing moms who need to work outside the home.

Let’s stop making working mothers feel guilty if they have no choice.

But, let us take a look at what materially we can do without to be the one our kids will remember by their side.

Let’s all stop equating stay-at-home moms to old-fashioned ignorance.

Let’s all stop degrading those who want to raise their kids in a two-parent, stay-at-home mom, type family. Can we respect their choice?

Can we celebrate motherhood?

Holly & Mommy Easter 1985

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Tent City…An Evening With the Homeless

Time period: October ‘09…

Tent City…nothing more than a wooded area under an overpass by the Cumberland River. The dwellings are make-shift homes occupied by the homeless of Nashville, with conditions so rough that no children are allowed. But, this “City” is duplicated in almost every major metropolitan area across the country. Our purpose in our weekly visits is to attempt to ‘teach a man to fish’ rather than put Band-Aids on gaping wounds by the feed-n-run system. Not only do we try to provide aid to their stomachs, we have also developed relationships, which led to sharing God’s word, helping to find jobs, and relocating…if they so choose. Unfortunately, whether due to past run-ins with the law, addictions, or more often than not, mental illness; most choose homelessness as their way of life.

Most have lost hope.

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Tent City 2009 (10)

Welcome to our home…

What a night!! Even though we’ve been going to Tent City every Tuesday night for quite a while now, there is always a new story to tell. Although ‘residents’ seem to rotate with more arriving in Tent City each week, there are a few constants with which we struck up relationships. When we arrived last night, one of the residents was waiting at the ‘entrance’ with Cowboy’s homemade cart to help us carry our supplies back into the camp. And to our great relief, Cowboy hand built a long table out of scrap wood for us to spread the food on and hopefully cut down on the chaos. Cowboy is quite a character, a Vet, and the self-appointed Mayor of the city. Though he and Rhonda, his “wife”, have resided in Tent City for several years, he gave the impression they traveled up with lots of stories from Texas. Sounds logical.

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Cowboy

The girl I call ‘Tripper’ (she always seems to be ‘tripping’ on something!) usually crowds in and hugs and touches on everyone. Cowboy’s table normally would have cut down on the physical contact, but she just reached right over and gave me the biggest hug and kept saying how beautiful we were. I do not know about that, but it was her way of showing her great appreciation for the one decent meal she had all day.

Every week, someone will offer to pray for the food, usually one of the residents. Last week, Tripper was the one to volunteer to pray! The sad thing is…she really knew the ‘churchy language’ of prayer. Some have been in church enough, and even raised in the church, that they know about religion, but never actually knew about having or developing a real relationship with God. Their lives have taken such a left turn and they are so utterly far away from the Lord, that they find themselves in a very destructive place. Their world is dark, and they are emotionally guarded, but they also long for authentic love.

Most residents love to hug, which is very hard for a germaphobe like me, but when I’m there, I forget about everything other than showing someone cares. God cares. They have so much value and worth in His eyes. So, I hug. We all do. We are all out of our comfort zones. We remember they are people, loved people, yet forgotten people. And yet, we always need to be ready for the unexpected. Just last week, Tripper asked if we had lotion…then with total abandon, raised up her shirt to show us her side and stomach, which exposed shingles or some sort of rash…I thought a couple of the guys were going to throw up right there!

After we served all of the food, we headed back into the camp to give a couple of the residents some items we saved. One of our favorite couples moved out this last week. Their campsite looks so dark and dreary. We are concerned about the wife as last week she indicated her desire to head to another state where she had family so as to get away from an abusive situation.

Tent City 2009 (6)All we can do now is pray. And wonder…

As we headed down the path on the right side of the fence, Donna and I were invited into the ‘den’ of a couple of the residents. The resident song writer, Jon El, told us to be careful not to fall as we would hurt our ‘baby buggy bumper pads’ if we slid down the muddy hill to the entrance of their camp. I’m sure that phrase was worded into one of his many songs. He tells stories of famous musicians, mostly George Strait, cutting his songs…and all the dreams of his ship coming in. They had a fire-pit with tarps stretched over like a tee-pee. We were gently warned by Howard not to touch the tarp, as if he was protecting us from getting dirty. The fire-pit created a horrible smoke slime on the underside of the tarps (their roof). It’s hard to understand how any of them stay healthy. They called the den their coffee house. Folgers is their favorite, which made me feel guilty for craving my Costa Rican fresh grounds.

Tent City 2009 (13)

Cooking dinner…

Later, Karen and I, along with Tim (our official body guard) went to the tent of one who was so very excited to show us the ‘home’ where he and his wife dwelt. He had the excitement of a kid showing us a brand new hot rod his daddy bought for his 16th birthday. They had a fire pit to cook over, and an old couch and chair in the three room tent. By the bed (a mattress on the ground), he had a TV hooked up to a car battery with a converter box, so as he said with a huge smile, they could watch CNN. Then he ‘showed off’ his heater, starting it by catching a napkin on fire with his lighter. The heater consisted of some sort of blower hooked up to a propane tank, the size of a grill tank. We were amazed at how it worked to heat up their little space. His wife talked of the difficulty she was having looking for a job. Most places hire on line and she does not have access to a computer living in the woods under the overpass. But they are trying to keep up their spirits, and genuinely seem like decent people. We made arrangements to get her to the library for their Internet use. I often remind myself, but for the Grace of God, there go I.

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Tent City Dwellings

What a muddy mess! God in his goodness though, stopped the rain while we were there and as soon as we headed up the path to leave the rain came pouring down! Yes, we should feel guilty…after all; the residents of Tent City do not have a choice but to endure all the elements. Camping 24-7. I thought about what a mess I must look with my hair falling out of the barrette I had it pulled up into. And then, looking around at the surroundings I was standing in, the women there had no curling irons, blow dryers, or mirrors to put on the make-up they don’t even possess. The only shower is an enclosed plastic construction work-site contraption set up along the side of the path, with no privacy I might add. The water is run from a hose connected to a building across the path, and cold (taking a hot shower is the first thing I do when I get home). They have no double vanity, and the toilet is a port-a-potty. Yes, I’d say they look pretty good for the conditions they live in.

Tent City 2009 (7)

Shower…cold water hose

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The only shower…

If I were relegated to live in Tent City…I believe for me, the most depressing matter would be to rarely enjoy a beautiful sunset. As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m looking out my balcony at the pinkish-orange clouds changing colors into reddish-yellow, and dropping below the horizon. Last week we did see a beautiful sunset as we were walking through the clearing of the path on our way out of the camp. This week the sky was gray and dreary. Down the paths of Tent City, the trees by the Cumberland River, the highway overpass, and the elevated train tracks all block any view of God’s colorful sunsets.

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The dark path…the entrance to Tent City

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The tracks under the overpass by the Cumberland River…enter Tent City behind the trees to the left.

Tent City 2009 (1)

The Upper Class of Tent City

After leaving the homeless at Tent City, I guess the biggest excitement of my evening was dinner at McDonald’s. I did not return home with the rest of the gang as I needed to pick up a friend at the airport who wasn’t due in for a couple of hours. I wanted to stay close to the highway for easy access, and parking is not the greatest on a rainy night in downtown Nashville, (and I felt very stinky from the campsite) so I reluctantly opted for the double arches to kill some time.

As I entered the fast food restaurant, I noticed a variety of patrons. There were a couple of families, a few who looked like they just got off work, and then there were a couple of people that looked homeless…my night I guess. Your typical patrons of the Double Arches.

As I was mindlessly watching the idiocy of CNN on the restaurant TV, I was distracted by a ruckus at the trash cans. A small man was reaching inside, moving the lid around. At first, I thought he was a worker trying to take the trash to the dumpster, but then he shoved the lid back and walked down the aisle, right past me, complaining (cussing) about the trash not having anything to eat inside. The manager came down the aisle after him and asked what was said. I overheard the homeless man telling the manager he wanted to buy something but only had a couple of dollars. Then the manager escorted him to the front (I couldn’t see the counter as I was sitting in the side dining area). I thought maybe he was escorting him out, but the next thing I knew, the man came back to the area I was sitting with a bag of food and sat down in the booth right next to me! He was facing the TV, watching CNN. After he scarfed down the food, he cleaned up the table better than any employee.

After few minutes, he started cussing at the TV and saying something about the government sending his son and all the kids into Afghanistan. The more he talked, the more agitated he became. The next thing I knew, he pulled up his shirt, and though it looked as if he was going to fix his pants, he pulled out a small liquor bottle and took a big swig. He then slipped the bottle back down his pants as if no one observed his actions. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He was in such a sad state. After a while, he started getting too loud, probably half drunk, until the manager finally escorted him out.

I commended the manager for giving him the food for the couple of dollars the man had on him. Even though he would be considered by most to be of the ‘dregs of society’ he is also a person, valuable in God’s eyes, the same with the residents of Tent City. This morning I was reading Psalms 139:13-16, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb….” The writer expresses how God knew us from the beginning, while we were yet formed, and He still loves us. No matter how chaotic or destructive our lives become, we are still loved and cherished, even if not by our fellow man. We will always be loved by the Lord, whether in plenty or in want. If only the residents of Tent City would be able to grasp that love…

Tent City

Millions of people
driving by,
lost in themselves nor
asking why.

Deep within the woods
come their cry,
a people unknown
left to die.

Societies waste
castaways,
hunger in their eyes
no one plays.

Is there salvation,
who will pray
for God’s lost children
led astray?

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Finding God’s Love in the depths of poverty…

**UPDATE: I wrote this piece in October of ’09. The next May, the 100 year flood hit Nashville and destroyed a good part of Middle Tennessee, completely wiping out Tent City. The guys from our group risked their lives to literally drag out every last resident and drive them to safer ground. The residents were relocated across the county, most in homes with much better conditions. While we were unable to help all the residents find healing in a better life, we were able to help a couple of families find jobs and housing, enabling them to reunite with their children. Isn’t that what it’s all about? We may not be able to help all…but if only we can help one

As time permits, I will make an honest attempt to blog about the what/where/why’s of homelessness, as this piece only deals with stories of our activities.

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Understanding Life’s Navigation

Have you ever downloaded a new computer program that was not user-friendly without an instruction booklet? We spend countless hours surfing and clicking in an attempt to master the unreachable. After screaming in frustration, we search for an instructor to show us how to comprehend and navigate before we can benefit from the program. Finally, with no instruction book, and no instructor, in frustration we succumb to defeat and toss the whole computer out the window.

God’s Word and Christianity are much the same. How many times do we fervently read scripture only for the words to fall flat? How many times do we come upon a situation which seems unreasonable?

Morning Work

We need the Holy Spirit to help the Word come alive, not only in our hearts, but also in our minds. In Acts 28:26-27, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused…” Opening our hearts to God’s Holy Spirit will soften the callouses of our lives and enable us to understand the deep meanings within the scriptures. Seeking mentors who are grounded in the Word will help us navigate through the Word to apply it to our lives.

Taking the occasional inventory will help keep us moving forward:

1)      Do we pray before/during/after reading scripture?
2)      Does our close circle of friends/relatives pull us to God or away from God?
3)      Does our local church (pastor, elders, and teachers) point us first to God’s precepts (His Word) or to their own theology?

Before we throw out the computer, disregard the bible, or throw away our lives; seek His guidance for understanding life’s navigation. Asking the Lord beforehand may save us tremendously in the end!

Isaiah 55:8-13

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty
,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace
;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

 

You want to wash MY feet??

I am one who despises religion…I’m more into relationship. I go to church…for relationship. Not the traditional rituals. The bible is clear the traditions held by mankind holds no meaning in God’s eyes. The apostle Paul describes it best in Galatians 3. Rituals, traditions, religions do not save the soul. Yet, we still have them. We still go. To. Church. Maundy Thursday seems to be the new rage these days. Our church held their first Maundy Thursday service this year. Normally, I am not one to get hyped up about these kinds of services. They seem so very…ritualistic.

Jesus taught in parables. He taught by example. Kids learn more by observing their parents than from any textbook. Traditions, festivals, religious holidays, etc. do serve a purpose. They “show” us the event. But save us? No. So then, why do we bother?

I was ever so glad when I was asked to run the media during the Thursday service. Work is always the perfect excuse to avoid participation. I could hide behind the sound booth where no one notices. My husband was asked at the last minute to participate in the live depiction of the Last Supper. So we were both busy. All settled. Foot washing ritual avoided!

During the service I hit play on a couple of videos which showed Ray Vander Laan explaining in detail the purposes behind each ritualistic position. Why they leaned on their right…or was it left…arm. Why they wanted to sit in such and such place at the table. Why Jesus dipped in the bowl of bitter herbs…with Judas. That part of the service, I love. The why’s. We read and hear things about Christianity that makes no absolute sense in today’s world. We have dishwashers and stoves. We drive cars and fly in planes. Why does it matter which arm they sat on? We sit at the table…they…the dirt floor.

Jesus, in his loving and patient way, lived what he spoke. He said serve. So, He Served. He was the leader. The King of the pack. The President. We are to serve those above. Yet, Jesus grabbed the title of the servant…the seat on the other side of the table…and took up the rag. He washed their feet. The King…washed their feet!

wash20feet

So, yeah…we have this “Foot Washing” in the middle of the service. Oh, don’t get me wrong…I love a good foot massage! I am not above having my feet washed…hey go for the whole deal…I’ll even provide the lotions! And for me to wash others…fiddle-sticks, I’ve wiped plenty of babies’ butts! No, the mechanics of the act have no effect on me.

It’s the ritual. The meaning. Lost in today’s world.

A low voice circles around the sound booth door…can I wash your feet?

If there is one person in the whole church who deserves a spa pampering day…it’s the momma of a pre-teen and a very special boy! I believe the parents are just as, if not more, special as the child. Life never quits. She drops in bed exhausted every night. Yet, full of love. Her house is the host of many a gathering…even in the midst of their own chaos. Always working. Always caring. Always giving. And she wanted to wash my feet.

wheelchair

No way…I should be washing hers!

 

Then Peter’s words popped out. And Jesus replied. And the least shall be first…and the first shall be least. So we wash. And be washed. Washed with the Spirit. The spirit of fellowship. The spirit of Love.

 

Ritual? Yes…to show…to remind us to feel…to love.

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*I don’t own the rights to the original wash bowl & wheel chair images, and I’m not making any money on them.

Hurt People…Hurt People

When I started this blog, I had in my mind a progression of blogs that would tell a story. But, alas, life hit and my path took a few forks.

In my first two posts I wrote about the ugliness of divorce and the effect it has on families, and on our society. While the subject can be quite depressing, my intent, if not successful, was to convey God’s redemption and restoration. I know first-hand we can have a great life after divorce. I know a lot of people who live in a much healthier state of mind, emotions, and well-being after healing from divorce. But what is not expressed, especially by main-stream society, is the baggage that will be carried for life, even for those who carry the least amount of fault. I say least, because in divorce, no one is without fault. No one.

Our society has been living on no absolutes for about thirty years now. We are so lost in our own self-preservation we forget how to truly love…unconditionally. For the most part, our society does not understand the concept of love. Love is unselfish. Yet, we love for ourselves. Then we hurt.

The cosmic question of the day: Why do people hurt people? I believe research concludes that people hurt others because they were also hurt by others. Hurt people hurt people. In any relationship, if we understand the root cause of an attitude or conflict, the conflict will become inconsequential. At the root of any conflict lies a sin of some sort, usually pride, or lust. Spoiled people hurt people. “Life is all about me.” These days, people are easily offended, even in words not directed at them. Society loves to play the victim. Society loves to lash out. We are a society of extremes. People hurt people. Hurt people hurt people.

So how do we get past that which has hurt us? How do we tumble out of the rain into the sunshine? Whether your pain is from childhood trauma, physical impairments, death of a loved one, abortion, financial problems, bad relationships, or divorce, etc., you can find healing through forgiveness. I would venture to say only through forgiveness. The famous quote by Gandhi, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission” is intended to shift perspective and give control to ourselves rather than those around us. Gandhi used the quote when he practiced civil disobedience to stay strong against his attackers. While on the outside this quote seems to be the answer to all our pain, the reality is we can only rely on our own will to take care of us physically, but the soul will remain empty. Psalm 32:3 says “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” Only when we get to the root of our problem, internal forgiveness, will we be able to walk in true freedom. I know more than anyone the faith it takes to give up control of the pain from wrongs inflicted and let the Lord deal with the injustice. Our nature leans to vengeance. We need justification. But, are our sins any less? Did Jesus not die for us too? God has proven over and over that His vengeance is always just. And sometimes God has a way of “payback” that leaves us shaking our heads knowing only God could pull that off!

And what about those supposed “Christians” or even our “family” who turn on us? Joseph is the perfect example of a man so very hurt by his brothers, friends, and co-workers, yet who refused to seek his own desire for justification. He let God handle every situation. In Genesis 50:19-20 (ESV), he said, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” By releasing his hurt to the Lord’s recompense, he was instrumental in saving two whole nations! Out of jealousy, David was hunted by King Saul. In 1 Samuel 26:10-11 (ESV) David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?”  And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish.” And God did just that. Saul perished…and David was held faultless. Will we be faultless if we seek our own revenge?

Let it go. Love as the Lord loves. Live in freedom.

 

“Is not this laid up in store with me,
sealed up in my treasuries?
Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
and their doom comes swiftly.’
 For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.”
~Deuteronomy 32:34-36 (ESV)

 

Let it go

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 
~Romans 12:18-20 (ESV)

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Pregnant…Again??

“What? You already have three kids and you’re pregnant again? Don’t you know what causes that by now?”

ultrasound

And on and on the condemnations flew…

So here I am. One failed marriage, another on its way. This one was promised to be my “Knight in Shining Armor” soul-mate. Yes, one would think that I of all people would know better.

My first husband was my high school sweetheart…but, less than eight years later, I found myself disillusioned, emotionally broke down, and bitter. Deep in my soul, all I wanted was the typical Tom Sawyer family complete with the little white picket fence. In a sense, I was trying to create a perfect life in restitution for my so-called “wild” teenage years. After a few years of trying to please everyone, my world crumbled when I realized I wasn’t pleasing to anyone. I was belittled and devalued. My self-worth diminished to my lowest point. I believed the lie that God had turned his back on me and did not care that I was doing everything in my power to live perfectly. So I turned my back on God.

But this post is not about my first marriage, I’ll save that for a later date. But I say all the above for a bit of background information to show my state of mind. This post is about a baby…a precious little human.

When I started dating my second husband, I was exhausted. Divorced with three young children, I was working over-time and living with a spirit of failure all around me, trying desperately to find value in my life. I was always busy, yet very alone. Being ten years older, he gave the illusion of being omniscient. My family was ecstatic, mostly my dad, mostly since he was always looking for someone to take me off his shoulders. Ha! Plus, he was related to my brother-in-law and they gave me only good reports. I thought this was the relief I desperately needed. My “Knight” swooped in with romance, worldly achievements, and showers of silky words. I was bait.

Since my first husband claimed no one would want me, especially with all those kids, I was more than ready to prove everyone wrong. That’s the problem with some men, their arrogance leads them to believe if they do not want a girl, then no one else would want her either. Then, they are shocked when they find out, whether he is good or bad, someone is always waiting in the wings. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Boy was he shocked! On the other hand…some girls have been devalued to the point they settle for what they believe they deserve instead of understanding that God’s love really does have the best for us.

We dated less than six months. I was deceived into believing this “Knight” was going to provide for me, be a fun step-dad for my kids, and yes, it was he who continually talked of having more children, even writing letters of his longing for his own children. He was in his latter thirties and felt the biological clock tick. I knew there was no chance of having more children with my first husband, and even though by the world’s standards I did not need another child, I secretly longed for more babies. Caring for my children put me in my element. I don’t know if that longing is put in women by God at creation, or if I was rebellious against the American 2.5 kid family. Consequently, and at his urging, I found myself pregnant with my fourth child. I remember being extremely excited to give him the news…he was finally going to be a father!

“We’re not ready yet. You need to get an abortion. I’ll not have anything to do with it.”

Those words still reverberate in my mind. How could I be hearing this? Was not this the man whom was to be my Knight in Shining Armor? Was not this baby his idea too? Even if neither of us needed this pregnancy, this was a little human. This was a soul. This was life. I know more than anyone that most women who have abortions are not bad people, they are victims of their circumstances. They are women who have been sold a lie. But, I could never fathom ending the pregnancy…for any reason. And my Knight wanted me to murder our baby? My world spun around and stopped.

Where was God now? Why was I being rejected again? I felt I deserved nothing. Walking a path on the dark side of heaven, while longing to be in the light, I felt abandoned once again.

After four months of marriage, I realized he had issues unknown even to his family. Manic depressives can and do live completely normal lives when their condition is managed well. I won’t go into the struggles they face in this post, but if you, or one close to you, face manic depression or bi-polar depression, please research and be well informed in order to live a nonviolent and productive life. To deny the existence of the condition only creates chaos for everyone involved.

My last straw came when he lost control of his temper with my son. After throwing me across the room when I confronted him, I packed up my kids and my belongings, and left. How was I going to take care of three children, pregnant, with very little support, and no job?

Pride…It really is an ugly thing. I was not the kind of person to ask for help…from anyone. What would be the world’s answer to my situation? Yes, I heard it again. Abort. Welfare. Abort. Start over. Abort.

But how could I look into the faces of my children and live the rest of my life knowing I killed their sibling? Would I have been able to abort any of the children I had if the birth order were reversed? Scientifically, the unborn is a separate human life! In the end, I ignored the comments of destruction and clung to that which I knew to be right. With no place else to go, I humbled myself, faced an abundance of criticism, and asked for help.

In every circumstance, even those created by our own bullheaded mistakes, our sins, God always provides a way to find an open door. We live in a fallen world. We are fallen. We are subject to the corrupt things of the world, even those who are blameless. The bible book of Job is a good study on this subject. God always restores. Sometimes not the way we expect. We will always carry the consequences, but He will restore. The Lord gave me that open door when I humbled myself to His care, and His forgiveness. I cannot tell you it was easy or without tears. But, He provided for me, for my children, and my unborn baby. God promises over and over He will take care of His children. His promises are true. He created us. He loves us.

An adult now, that baby is the joy of our family. God provided people to step in and give us a roof over our head until I could get on my feet. He also provided money for me to pay for our own food, provisions, and utilities. He later provided a father who adopted my baby as his own; a perfect reflection of our heavenly Father adopting us, in all our ugliness, and accepts us as His own. Now, that beautiful life is a college graduate, happily married, and a vital asset to our society.

Did I make the right choice? In my mind, there was no choice to make.

Your situation may be quite different. It may not be an unplanned pregnancy you are facing, but the solution is still the same. Two wrongs do not make a right. Never listen to the lie that God has deserted you. I did, and God showed me He was always with me, waiting. When we find ourselves on a crocked path we need only to pray. There is no sin so deep that God’s grace cannot draw you back.

 

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
~Isaiah 43:18-19

BabyCakes

 “Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10 (MSB)

 

 

Do you really want to be a step-parent?

“Hey you! Yes, you! Single? But you know life with me will be so much better than your ex! Let’s join forces and start our own family!”

And a new journey begins…

The scenario is common place in today’s world. Boy meets girl, fall in love, get married, and have the proverbial 2.5 kids. Life happens. Marriages fall apart. Families separate. Life goes on. Boy meets another girl. But this time…

It’s like a Hollywood film. Now, there’s a demon full of hypocrisy! Movies, series, and sitcoms encourage divorce. They prey on the drama. The new romance is glorified. But, after the nuptials, the step-parents are depicted in the same light as preachers, grandparents, or anything deemed “old-fashioned”. The step-mother is depicted as evil in children’s films. The step-father is shown either as a buffoon or an ogre. Volumes have been written, directed, and produced on the negativity of the step-parent. And yet, the contradictions fly when divorce and re-marriage is romanticized and glorified, not giving consideration to the children…those little characters woven into every scene for that “awe” effect.

His kids…her kids. And thus, the top reason second marriages experience a higher divorce rate than first marriages. With the high number of divorces, even in the church, a divorced person will have a pretty good chance of becoming a step-parent! When a young couple has a baby, they blend and grow with the baby. They develop strategies together. They both have the same rights and privileges with their child because the child is half the other parent. With step-kids, the parents have already established their own system and take offense when a new spouse attempts to make changes. And thus, the drama begins…

Did you think the kids would naturally like you, the new step-parent?

Did you think his kids and her kids would actually like each other?

Most divorced parents fail to contemplate the issues lurking around the corner when they enter into another relationship. I lost count of the couples I have personally known who found themselves in the divorce court for the second and third time. And their #1 complaint? His kids…her kids. Unfortunately, so many disappointed new spouses blame the kids, when the child’s behavior is only a reflection of the emotions produced from the trauma and upheaval in their world. Emotions in which children do not have the maturity level to process.

Even in the best of situations, the children typically feel a gap, or a relational void, between the step-parent/siblings. Why? Even in the best of situations, the children will always secretly dream of their own parents reuniting.

God placed within the heart of every human the longing for family…for roots. This is the reason most adoptees will search out their biological parents. We all long for security and a sense of belonging. When parents divorce, the family trinity is broken and the child feels ripped apart. Two parents. Two homes. Two moms. Two dads. Never fully belonging in either family.

And yet…we do belong. We belong to the Great I Am. Our creator. Our redeemer. Our savior.

So nothing else matters, right? Right?

Except…

We have to live. Daily. With immature people. With fallible people. And they have to live with us. And we have to blend. Adjustments are always difficult, especially with fallible people.

Please understand; the step-parent should never take the place of a biological parent. Contrary to popular belief, it would be a mistake for a future step-parent to assume the kids will consider them a second mom/dad. Most of the time the step-parents end up considering themselves blessed if the kids actually accept the subsequent marriage to their dad/mom! But, to expect a relationship with the step-kids on a level any deeper than that of a niece or nephew is fantasy. It’s no different than living with a teenager in any home…the parent cannot do anything right. Remember as teenagers, we all thought our parents were out of touch and full of marbles, until we became parents ourselves! And it is even more so with a step-parent!

Even though most of my friends who are step-parents never attempted to replace the biological parent, insecurities from their new spouse’s ex-wife/husband created a very dysfunctional atmosphere (I do have personal experience here!). Due to a longing for the security of the union of both parents, the step-parent is a prime target for the kids hostility, especially when one parent portrays their ex’s new spouse as the enemy (more personal experience!). Unfortunately, a lot of parents behave more like the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend than the stabilizing mother/father the child needs. Be aware that quite often, even when a step-parent has a healthy view of the step-child relationship, the ex may not. Not many mothers or fathers want to give up half of their rightful parenting time to another person, especially with their ex’s new spouse. Jealousy flies deep and only backfires.

Many reading this have not yet divorced and therefore cannot yet comprehend the extent of separation that comes with a divided family. This post was written for the most part with you in mind. My prayer is that you will do everything in your power to “mow the grass on your side of the fence” first before searching for greener pastures. They do not exist. Keep the dogs out of your current marriage. Don’t grow old with only regret to look back on! Just because you don’t want your spouse does not mean no one else will want them either. Someone is always waiting around the corner. Are you ready to share your children? How will you feel as you watch your child leave your door every week or month to live where you have no control? And ultimately, are you ready for a step-parent to step into your place to care for your child in a home on the other side of town? Understandably, some parents feel their relationship with their children is threatened when a step-parent enters their child’s life. Their insecurity will not give room for anyone else in the child’s life, especially their ex’s new wife/husband. Though the step-parent should never take the place of the parent, each visitation brings fears of replacement, especially for the mom.

If you are not yet divorced, and the negative scenarios in this post are not the family life you envisioned, purpose in your heart to make your present family solid. The best thing dads can do for their kids is to love their mom. The best thing moms can do for their kids is to respect their dad. You are not alone in your struggles. Do not be too proud to seek help. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” ~ Proverbs 15:22

The adjustments of a newlywed childless couple in a first marriage are no comparison to the adjustments of a newlywed couple in a blended family. My hope is that whoever is reading this will take off any rose-colored glasses when entering into a relationship involving children. Many reading this will be able to relate to the heartache of letting go of part of your children, through divorce, long before they would naturally leave the nest. Loneliness is hard. But, the Lord wants to help you heal. There is hope. God is a God of Restoration! With a lot of hard work, and patience, you will get through the valleys and find yourself on a mountain again.

I know more than anyone how hard it is, but never grow weary in doing good! But most of all…pray! Pray for God’s comfort and strength. You will need it…and He will give it.

 

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~Galatians 6:8-10

 

~Click here for the 2nd half of this post… “Do you Really want to be a Step-Parent?”

 

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His Friends…Her Friends

http://www.friends-tv.org/

(http://www.friends-tv.org/)

His friends, her friends: His house, her house. Surprisingly, most people do not consider the division of friends. As you are deciding who gets the silver china, and who gets the Oriental rug; be prepared to divide all the people in your life. Be prepared to let go of most of your friends. Sometimes though, that’s not such a bad idea. Sometimes, it’s the friends who do the separating.

Remember that one friend in elementary school? You know, the one who expected everyone to be friends with them, but not friends with each other. You will find that friend in every age group. People are generally selfish beings. And nothing brings that raunchy character out more than divorce.

Divorce not only brings out the best of the worst of the couple…divorce brings out the best of the worst of their circle of friends. The division of friends along with the division of the family happens every time. (That’s not just an opinion.)

Angry Friends

People love a good cat-fight! Our society thrives on drama…He said, She said. Unfortunately, the church is no different. Another reason God said he hates divorce. The domino effect of gossip ripples through, starting with the marriage…to the children…to the in-laws…to the friends…to the church…and eventually throughout the whole community.

“I’m only telling you this so you can pray for them…”

And by the time that “prayer request” gets through the chain, the situation seems bad enough to excommunicate, throw someone in jail, and call in the military! Especially in a divorce situation, people will automatically believe the negative without a thought to verify the faulty one-sided information. Why?

Because someone is wrong.

Because someone is hurt.

Because, even though our society will not admit there is a core in every person that hides a conscience screaming for right or wrong, people will naturally stand beside those to whom they believe to benefit their own lives. It does not matter whether that person is right or wrong. It does not matter if they have faulty information. It does not matter if they only have one-sided information. Neutrality is nonexistent. They will pick sides…a side that benefits themselves.

In divorce…each party is wrong in one way or another. No one is ever totally right. One party may be more at fault than the other, but neither party is innocent.

We are all sinners.

We all make mistakes.

We all need to forgive.

We all need grace.

Yet, even in our progressive society, divorced people are demeaned on all levels. A divorcee is branded…tattooed…labeled. Statistics show a married couple to have greater opportunities than divorced singles, especially women.

Oh the men she attracts…oh the wives who automatically judge. I once had a neighbor to my right who marched next door while the single (divorced) neighbor to my left was mowing her lawn. Mrs. Married proceeded to demand Ms. Single stay away from her husband. The two had never met. The poor single girl had just moved in the weekend before. The married neighbor came to the assumption that our new neighbor was single, and obviously divorced since she had a child on the front porch, and would naturally make a play for her husband. Labeled…branded…tattooed…

Do you think it won’t happen to you? No one does. The hurt from a sour marriage clouds any rational thinking. All they look for is a door to a better life. The temptation of Door #2. Do you remember that old show? Blindly pick a man behind a closed door based on his answers to questions designed to detect his perfection. Is my dream-boat sitting behind Door #2? Or maybe Door #3? Only to find the person that answered their questions with perfection was slightly less than average. And, maybe Door #1 wasn’t quite so bad after all…

Do you really want that kind of life? Oh if we would only mow the grass on this side of the fence first…

We are all sinners.

We all make mistakes.

We all need to forgive.

We all need grace.

 

Our Weding Rings

 

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From a Wife’s Perspective

What’s the harm? No one will know…

hidden magazines

He secretly flirts. He thinks, what is the harm in just one peek? No one will know about the X rated video rented from the small rental store on the other side of town. No one is up at 3:00 A.M., when the internet is secretive, where 1 billion people go to pornography sites daily. Then, unaware of its presence, lust sneaks up and runs over him. Finally, he wakes up one day under the weight of metal and rubber, reeling in addiction.

I really believe pornography is quickly becoming the number one marriage killer, something I experienced first-hand. Why does it have such a devastating effect on the marriage? …It is pure deception. Not only are the subjects deceptive to men, but in turn, the husband is deceptive to his wife, family, and ultimately to God. The industry has actually admitted the pictures are altered to make the subjects look like man’s greatest fantasy. No woman could ever look that flawless in the flesh. Quite frankly, if she even had the capabilities of looking that perfect, everyday life keeps women too busy to put that much work into the upkeep! Men addicted to porn don’t realize that the women in their fantasies are airbrushed young girls, purely self-absorbed, seeking only the self-gratification of adoration for their outward beauty; while on the inside there is only deep empty darkness.

Most don’t realize the girl in front of the camera is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s future wife, somebody’s future mother.

Why would pornography, whether magazine, internet, or movie, matter to a man’s wife? What harm is there in the husband looking at other women? After all, he isn’t actually touching, is he? Coming from the wife’s perspective, I can say, the harm runs emotionally deep in ways you can’t imagine. Trust is destroyed with the realization that he is no longer “one” with only you. Sex was created by God himself…and it is beautiful. Abuse through exploitation only distorts God’s creation.

Before he even realizes there is a problem, subtle changes start taking place in his desires. Eventually, his wife’s appearance doesn’t satisfy his needs. She usually takes his dissatisfaction personally, feeling like there is something inadequate in her, feeling not only used and ugly on the outside, but the inside as well. If she were normally a self-secure person, she might recognize the problem is not her. But most women do not have a good self-image to begin with, especially with the images the media encourages of how a woman is expected to look by our society. Our husbands are supposed to be the one to whom we can trust to love us just as we are, even with no make-up and baggy sweats! When the wife feels she can’t satisfy him, she feels devalued, that she is not good enough for him. The love is non-existent. Eventually she will give up trying to please him, losing all respect for her husband, and search for her self-worth elsewhere. That’s when the friction starts, and a vicious cycle begins.

toilet

This addiction steals time…time sneaking away from the family, sneaking away from his wife, and sneaking away from God. When a friend’s ex finally admitted his deep porn addiction, she told him that she really thought he had a girlfriend because of his continual unknown whereabouts and his outward disgust for her. He replied, “In reality, I don’t have one girlfriend, I have hundreds.” Why equate lust to having a girlfriend? Because of the way man is designed. Jesus said, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” A man’s sexual satisfaction is physical, while a woman’s satisfaction is emotional. Women tend to be drawn to romance novels and soap-operas. For a man to give himself to another it will be through the physical. His eyes pop out when she walks into the room. The husband will physically work for the family through his career. He is the muscle who moves the furniture when the wife feels the need to redecorate. He takes out the trash and changes the oil. So when a man lusts after another physical being, he is exchanging the entire life that belongs to his wife. (And girlfriends…you do the same through romance novels and soap-operas! When that guy at the office sweetens you up with compliments and flowers that your husband forgot, run! It’s just not worth it!)

Ultimately, we women feel rejected, replaced, and betrayed. Jesus said, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Some may argue he was referring only to money, but I believe he was referring to every area of our lives, especially relationships.

What are we committed to? Where are our loyalties? If you are not committed to your marriage, you are flirting with adultery and divorce…drama you do not want! Men, do you not realize that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Women, do you not realize one woman’s knockoff is another woman’s designer wardrobe! If you treasure your marriage, your whole heart will be in it. You will protect it. You will love, support, and accept your spouse for the beautiful creation which God entrusted you.

How do you, as the wife, handle your husband’s pornography addiction? You learn to accept yourself the way the Lord loves and accepts you. He gave his life for you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your fulfillment does not come through your husband, but through the Lord. Release your husband of that responsibility, one he will never be able to fill, and cling to the Lord. Isaiah 54:6 says the Lord is your husband, even when your earthly husband chooses not to cleave to you only. Let the Lord be your identity. Only then will you have the security you desperately desire.

The condition of the heart is at the root of pornography addiction, not the physical appearance. You know the saying, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” There is a deep place in every man’s (and woman’s) heart only the Lord can fill. Only the Living Water can fill and satisfy those desires. God can take away any addiction, only if the addicted allow Him to fill those dark places with the light of his Holy Spirit. Dwell on Psalm 51 and let the Spirit of Restoration in your heart.

Psalm 139.14

Hope through study in God’s word:

Our battle is not with flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, he answered each time with scripture:

We fight evil with good. We fight the lies of Satan with the truth of God’s word.

We counter act the lies with God’s love, meditating on His word. We are to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”. Dwell on 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5:11-33, and Matthew 19:1-12. We need to immerse ourselves with the commitment of bonded marriage. Not a chain of strangulation and limitation, but of life and of God’s love; the only love that truly satisfies our heart’s desires.

Click here for the Bible Online

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Presumption & Assumption

The sin of presumption. Most of us don’t even consider whether we have a presumptuous attitude. As the root of most sin is pride, a presumptuous person cannot see his own arrogance in the mirror. They travel through life on a bumpy road because they are more interested in their own opinion than to listen to others. They do things without asking permission because they know better; even the little things like reaching into a candy dish on a co-worker’s desk, or eating someone’s leftovers in the fridge because we think they are free-for-all. They are the typical “know-it-all’s” that walk in the beat of their own drum.

You know the type…but is that you? Is that me?

  • What is the desire of my heart?
  • Am I more interested in correcting people than listening?
  • Do I desire the good of others, or my own opinion?
  • How is my heart toward those in authority?
  • Is my first thought one of disrespect and rebellion, or of honor and obedience, even when I disagree?

Love this: “those who walk after the flesh and indulge in the lust of polluting passion and scorn and despise authority. Presumptuous and daring self-willed and self-loving creatures! They scoff at and revile dignitaries (glorious ones) without trembling, whereas even angels, though superior in might and power, do not bring a defaming charge against them before the Lord.” ~ 2 Peter 2:10-11

Presumption & assumption…evils that destroy relationships. Most of us are occasionally guilty of drawing wrong conclusions. Or we often listen to the half-truths of others and form a wrong opinion of an innocent person. How often do we interrupt others because, of course, our opinion is always much better? “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned…” (v4) Why would we expect any less for us? If we are cultivating a life of humility, there is no room for presumption. I pray for wisdom to know when I need to humble myself and contemplate selflessness before becoming guilty of the sin of presumptuous pride, the deadliest of the seven sins.

Do you assume the eye is of a Stallion??

Do you assume the eye is of a Stallion??

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Refined Restoration

 “Remove the dross from the silver,
        and out comes material for the silversmith…” ~Proverbs 25:4

I love the analogy of the Refiner! It took me most of my life, a lot of heartache, and a ton of prayers to begin to see myself the way the Lord sees me. I, like most in this fallen world, grew up with the wrong thinking of what makes a person acceptable. There has been so much talk the past couple of decades about the “blame it on my childhood” syndrome that it’s become a crutch and excuse for everything wrong today. Blame-shifting does not heal. I believe while it is very true your past experiences can determine your outlook today (and need to be dealt with); your past experiences do not dictate who you are in Christ. You are responsible for you…and your worth is based on God’s opinion, not man’s opinion.

“You are our Father.
           We are the clay,
 you are the Potter;
      we are the work of your hand.” ~Isaiah 64:8

When I stopped trying to live up to the world’s (family, church, friends) unattainable standards, and focused only on the things the Lord said about me (born again, new creatureaccepted and restored), only then did I have the peace, security, and comfort only the Lord gives. A refiner will heat the gold or silver to a temperature so hot that all the impurities (past hurts, bitterness selfishness, envy, etc.) are burned away. The refiner only starts the cooling process when he is able to see His own reflection (forgiveness, peace, joy, etc.) in the liquid. You see, when the Lord refines us, he not only burns out the dirt in our life, he also changes our molecules, our core, and our thinking process. When we have been refined, we begin to see ourselves as the Lord does; beautiful, pure, and worthy of the sacrifice He gave long before we were born. I guess it takes being “refined” before we can fully appreciate just how much the Lord really does love us…and we can finally freely love.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” ~James 1:2-4

Refiner's Restoration

 

 

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The Home That Love Built

A little story about my ancestors…

Great-Aunt Mildred Golden, Great-Grandma Gladys Golden-Frantz, and Little Me!

As a child, Bethany Children’s Home deep in the back hills of Kentucky left an indelible impression on me. Nestled in the bottom land by Holly Creek, the first sight looked like a brilliant painting by Thomas Kinkade. The Appalachian Mountains protected the home from modern civilization. Magnificent, aged trees hovered as angels spreading their wings. The only clearings were the fields on the farms, and the hillside where the old buildings seemed to harmonize with nature.

Living in the city, I rarely had the opportunity to breathe in the air God created our lungs to inhale. The aroma of huge oak, beech, cedar, and pine trees mixed with the tickling of the dust from the dirt road steadily lifted the soul. Pennyroyals and goldenrod lined the road creating a natural landscape along the curb of the forest. I often miss the simple beauty of a landscape created by God alone. A city offers neat little houses lined up in perfect rows. Shrubs, trees, plants, and flowers are precisely placed within utopian gardens. While the perfect houses and the precise gardens are charming, nothing compares with the picturesque beauty of nature.

With scarcely a motor vehicle traveling back and forth, we could hear only the sound of nature. Maple, hickory and walnut leaves played their stringed instruments in the wind. Cardinals sang harmony and mockingbirds sang backup. A woodpecker led the percussion. Only the fighting of my siblings interrupted the earthly orchestra.

Throughout time, Bethany Children’s Home, a place we call Bethany, seemed unchanged. The plain, wood buildings always needed paint. An old windowless, three-room, two-story log cabin was on the property when a local man donated the land in 1926. It stood silently still. The original wooden church burnt to the ground before I was born; therefore, they built the new church of cement blocks. No steeple stood on top of the church, just a small wooden cross on the front attic roof. Sounds from the “Liberty” bell in front of the church called all to worship. The two-story dorms were endlessly long. They reminded me of old government apartment buildings. Several smaller buildings just as dilapidated as the first, were scattered on the hillside. The home began with only three little orphaned girls. Known as “The Bethany Orphanage” in 1926, in just a few short years, by 1956 the home gained a Board of Trustees and became “Bethany Children’s Home, Inc.” The home was started by three women : Marjorie Burt and Laura Wendland, missionaries from the Free Methodist Mission in Oakdale, Kentucky, and Lina Miller (from the Chicago Evangelistic Institute class of 1924, Miss Burt’s Alma Mater, who resigned her position in the office of a business firm in Dixon, Illinois to join her two friends). Mildred Golden joined the three women the next year in 1927. With love for the children, their mission began in the bottom land of Holly Creek with nothing but a dream, a prayer, and a miracle.

I visited the home as a child and my Great-great-aunt Mildred was the first to greet us. Great-grandma Gladys was waiting anxiously in the background. I never fully appreciated the sisters. As any child would, I only saw them as old. Born in 1898 and 1900, they wore the dress of spinsters. Their gray hair projected a crown of righteousness. Thick glasses kept secret the direction of dissenting looks. When Aunt Mildred welcomed us, her voice was not a loud voice, yet she commanded attention. Great-grandma Gladys, being the elder, had a quieter nature about her, yet she never went unheard.

Aunt Mildred had an abundance of spirited energy. Always working, she expected an equivalent effort from others as well. She gave orders with an air of sternness, apparent even when she smiled. A well-deserved air of authority emanated from Aunt Mildred. The children knew, in her devoted manner, she loved them deeply. Somehow, through her gruff exterior, she obviously loved her stature in life. Called to the mission field by God, she originally set her sights on India. Aunt Mildred graduated from Asbury University in 1925, and subsequently began nurse’s training at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Through a series of events, she left Ohio and arrived at Bethany on March 29, 1927, the year after its conception. There she stayed; a towering rock that helped build Bethany Children’s Home. Nearly sixty years later, her declining health forced her to move in with my grandparents in 1983, just before her death in 1986. Her primary position was a school teacher and nurse. She became the first clerk at the Bethany Post Office on July 28, 1928; Acting Postmaster in 1950; and Postmaster, April 19, 1951, maintaining that position until May 31, 1970. During her nearly sixty years at the orphanage, as a pioneer nurse she delivered 267 babies without a doctor being on the case at the time of delivery. Aunt Mildred never married. The orphanage became her mission…and her family.

Quite a bit shorter than her younger sister, Great-grandma Gladys walked with a limp, crippled from polio as a child. Deep down inside this quiet spirit lay a gentle sense of humor. During evening assembly, great-grandma acted out one of her many readings. They were always funny, and some were quite ornery for a conservative great-grandmother. I enjoyed her peaceful demeanor, but being an inquisitive child, I eventually ran off to find some adventure of my own.

In the dining hall, everyone ate on long tables with a staff member on the end of each. That was quite an experience. They always expected proper manners from the children. The food was home-grown, and the milk was fresh from the cow. I didn’t care for the vegetables, but I always begged for more fresh, raw milk. The flavor was sweet and strong, a very different flavor from the city, store-bought milk. Great-grandma packed a jug for our trip home, just for me. My most memorable time came on a walk across the road to the farm which supplied most of the food and milk for the orphanage. Being from the city, I was unaware of the shock I would receive when I unconsciously grasped the electric fence to aid my hike up the hill. While I was listening to the bellowing cows, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker in the Forrest, I suddenly found my backside in the middle of the dirt road! While the laughter flowed easily from the children, aside from my embarrassment, I sensed an air of contentment.

Great-grandma spent most of her days running the used clothing store. An old tin building, it was more of a shack that reeked with the aroma of moth balls. All the clothes at the home were donated by outsiders. The staff rationed the children out what they needed, and the children could buy extras with money they earned from chores. My mother gave us spending money to buy items in the store, not because we needed any clothes, but as a means to help support the children’s home. Great-grandma always smiled and patted our heads, as older people do, when we gave her the money for our purchase.

Through her peaceful spirit, given to her by God himself, it was apparent Great-grandma’s life had not been easy. She was young when she married. While pregnant with her second child, my great-grandfather left. No one ever saw him again, except in the features of the two children he left behind. After living at Bethany for the school year of 1927, she returned to her parents home in East Liverpool, Ohio, in March of 1928, to raise my grandmother and her brother. During that first winter in Bethany, it was not unusual for her and the two kids to find streaks of snow across the bed clothing in the morning, after a night of snow that had blown through the cracks in the walls of the side room that had been added to the store where they lived. During her years in Ohio, Great-grandma visited the orphanage often, and in 1939 she returned to Bethany to take care of the Home Girls and was in charge of the used clothing store until her death in 1977, thirty-eight years later. Great-Grandma never remarried, finding contentment in her position at Bethany and the many children she cared for. My Grandma had such fond memories of Bethany from her childhood, she actually sent my dad and his two siblings to live with Great-Grandma Gladys and Great-Aunt Mildred to attend school for three years in the late 40’s, giving three generations to have lived in the bottom land by Holly Creek.

Unwanted children…that’s what they called them. I never thought of my newfound friends in that regard. We played on the large iron swings, and ran through the fields just the same as my friends at home. The children were loved and well adjusted, a far cry from the horror stories about orphanages in the media today. I remember stories of the mountaineers leaving children to the door of the orphanage during the night, especially during the depression years. They had no means of feeding their families, yet loved their children and wanted for them a better life. At the orphanage, instead of a mountain shack, they were placed under a roof with heat on their feet. The children were fed, schooled, and definitely loved.

I have not returned to the tranquil valley in the Appalachians since the sisters passed away. Often, I consider taking my own children to the place which holds a few very dear memories for me. They need to experience the natural tranquility of the bottom land near Holly Creek, to experience the joy of giving love to those who have so much to give back. I cannot give this priceless heritage to my children for the Bethany Children’s Home we knew no longer exists. Government red tape forced the orphanage to close in the 1980’s. The home then became a private Christian school in 1986, leaving the mountaineers to fend for themselves or depend on government handouts. My children will see the orphanage only through my eyes when I reminisce on my own experience.

I often wonder, since Great-grandma is gone, since Aunt Mildred is gone, and since the home where so much love abounded is gone, who will take care of the orphans?

 

My Daddy, Great-Aunt Mildred Golden, Great-Grandma Gladys Golden-Frantz, and Little Me! Visiting @ Bethany Children’s Home.

 

My Mom, siblings, and Great-Grandma Golden-Frantz…and of course, Babette our Poodle!

 

Mom with my siblings visiting Bethany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Loneliness

Job’s wife. Not a lot is known about her that is not negative. We know the end of the story. Of course, Job was right. His wife was wrong. But was she?

Job 19:19 says, “All my close friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me.”

Walk in peace...

Loneliness is all too common, even in urban locations with dense populations. Mark Twain called New York City “a splendid desert—a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is lonely in the midst of a million of his race.” Psychoanalysts have discovered links between loneliness and physical, as well as emotional, health problems. We’ve all heard the phrase “lonely in a crowd”. In the late ’50s, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, a Jewish psychiatrist, who had come to the United States from Germany to escape Hitler, was known for insisting that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy. Loneliness, she said, is the want of intimacy. She then helped pave the way for Psychoanalysts to become Psychobiologists, taking a hard look at the physical effects of the psyche. Since the ’50s, profound discoveries have been made linking our emotional state to health issues such as obesity, arthritis, heart issues, diabetes, hypertension, etc. There has been an abundance of studies showing married people live longer than single people. Suicide rates are highest among lonely people. Sounds depressing just talking about where loneliness leads! But, in Psalm 68:5-6, God’s word says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…”

Families. What if the family is no more? The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. What better way to accomplish his means than by way of the family? As soon as intimacy fades, when the marriage crumbles, before the divorce, loneliness has already infected its subjects. We sleep in the same bed, we ride in the same vehicle, we attend the same baseball game for little junior. Yet, we are strangers. We are together alone. Hopeless. Ambitions and dreams…lost. Even God seems but a distant memory. Our survival mode kicks in. The human psyche screams for escape from our prison of loneliness. In desperation, we turn to vice instead of relationship, for the relationships we have known are void of intimacy. Like empty barrels rolling down a steep hill. We turn in circles, rolling faster and faster, only to break in splinters when we reach the bottom. We take the broken barrel, and with the splintered pieces, we build walls, barriers, dams. We associate intimacy with vulnerability…pain. Divorce and death are but the same. The ripping apart of two souls. Marriage makes two become one. Sound biblical? I’m not talking physical. A prostitute can be one physically, but not intimately. To be vulnerable enough to become one with another equates to intimacy. When intimacy is shattered, families disintegrate, societies fall.

What great loss to bear. Right along with Job, his wife lost her home, her knickknacks, her children, her station in society, even her friends. Her cry for Job to “curse God and die” seeps from the depths of a shattered life. In her deep despair, she needed answers, she needed strength, she needed to be rescued. She could not see past her great pain. I may be wrong, but have my suspicions that she was a good person, in spite of her negativity born from deep pain. Have we not all said things in the midst of battle that later turned into regret? Are we any less guilty of turning a deaf ear to the Lord when in the midst of our own deep pain? Yes, there have been times when I have found myself on my bathroom floor in a fetal position internally screaming, “Why Lord, Why?”

And then came Job. Her strength. Her rock. Intimacy? We can guess that through the pain and disagreements, they remained a marital one. The story does not indulge on Job’s wife’s character, not even giving her a name. But in the end, she lives. In the end, she is doubly blessed at Job’s side. Some stories have a greater level of inspiration than meets the eye.

Where is hope? Where is God? Questions asked of Job. When everything is lost, who or what fills the hole? Do we follow our friends, just to avoid loneliness? Do we blame-shift, just to hang on to our pride? What do we do with our pain? Yes, Job was right. We will eventually find our way to the other side of our pain. Even after broken relationships, we will pick up the pieces and go on, pushing through the consequences. But the choice to fill the deep holes in our soul comes only through a God filled heart. Choosing the eternal over the temporary. Job knew God was his source of life, and death. He knew we humans do not have the capability to see the whole picture, the future, or the eternal. Society does not have answers, only assumptions. But, trusting our existence to another entity is creating vulnerability. Do we dare to be intimate? Even with our creator? Do we have a choice? Of course. We can choose to be lonely…or choose to step into the intimacy of God’s love.

Job’s family had problems, but he stood faithful. Job’s wife had doubts, but Job not only stayed faithful to God, he stayed faithful to her. He did not cast her off like most would have when she only had the strength to curse. He stood faithful. In the midst of her pain, even though she succumbed to cursing Job…and God, she did not leave, but stayed by Job’s side. She chose the faithful.

Though we question, though we doubt, God has the same (yet perfect) character as Job. He does not cast us off when we lash out through our pain. He stays faithful to us. He loves us when we behave badly, for he sees our pain. He knows the other side. Through His faithfulness, blessings flow. The “Job” people are the ones who keep families together. The rocks who build. They are the rocks we trust with our intimacy, because of their intimacy with God. And when we do not have a “Job” in our life? God sent Jesus. His redemptive Holy Spirit will gather you to Him.

Intimacy. Disintegrates. Loneliness.

Isaiah 43.18

Resources:

http://www.biblegateway.com/

www.newrepublic.com/article/113176/science-loneliness-how-isolation-can-kill-you

http://nymag.com/news/features/52450/index1.html

https://www.google.com/

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False Assumptions

On our Indiana farm, when the snow falls, the fields are but a blanket of white covering the ground. It is absolutely beautiful, and of course I am continually snapping pictures. Our farm is always full of photographic moments.

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However, on the coldest night of the season last year, Elsie, one of our dairy cows, went into labor. The calf was breech so the next night, my husband called the Vet to assist with the birth. Unfortunately, by that time, the calf had died, bloated inside, and Elsie was fading fast. After working on her for a while, the Vet finally said there was no hope, she was not going to make it. He turned to my husband and chastised him for not calling earlier that morning. The Vet let him know just how horrible his farming abilities were. How could any farmer neglect a cow, resulting in the death of both cow and calf? The farmer did not respond. Being a city girl, I could not respond either. This was the first time I had ever witnessed something so ugly, and I was trying to process the magnitude of what just happened. The vet left disgusted.

If only he had known the events of the previous 24 hours…

???????????????????????????????

The snow had been falling all day, and by evening it was pretty much a white-out. Here in this Indiana farm, the wind blows like an Oklahoma prairie. My poor husband was outside in sub-zero temperatures trying to make sure the animals were fed and gathered in protected areas. He noticed Elsie was starting to calve, and proceeded to corral her into the barn where she could give birth in a calmer, more protected environment. She must have been frightened by the fierce snow storm and turned toward the pasture at full speed. He ran after her but the snow was falling so thick it completely covered her trail. He came back for a flashlight and headed out again. As the temperature was already below zero, he was eventually forced to come inside to keep his feet and hands from frost-bite.  If he would have been gone much longer, I would have gone out after him and in the white-out we both might have frozen to death while looking for each other, along with the cow. Early the next morning, he took Salty, the herd dog, and headed out to the fields to find and bring in Elsie. But, she was nowhere to be found. The ground was covered with at least twelve inches of fresh snow, and even Salty was unable to pick up any tracks or scent of the cow. The temperature was so low it was too dangerous for the dog to be out long. My farmer brought the herd in to milk, and then went out to look for Elsie again. Finally, she wandered up to the back of the barn about dusk and he was able to lead her into the barn where he had made a bed for her with hay bales and immediately called the vet. The tracks she left led back to the woods. No farmer ever would have found her in the white-out the night before.

I think you can see by now the point to this little story. How often do we jump to conclusions and pass judgment based on partial information? The vet based his opinion of the farmer on what he saw…not knowing anything about the previous night. Nor did he ask. How would his opinion change if he had been here the night before with my husband outside freezing in the sub-zero snowfall? Instead of leaving in a heap of disgust, he would be crying with the farmer and giving him a hero’s pat on the back for trying so hard to save the cow and calf. What a difference the other side of the story makes in our conclusions. There is always more than one side to every story. How different might we see things when we dig deeper. The sin of assumption…

How many lives have been destroyed from gossip based on the word of one who only knows in part? How often have false accusations based on judgments derived from partial information led to destroyed relationships? How hard is trust to regain? I believe we have all come across those who decided to dislike us based on the biased words of another.

Forgiveness. Wisdom. Prayer. The knowing that the only one to whom we are responsible knows all. The Lord knows the other side of the story. He gives comfort to hurting hearts. The 27th Psalm of David says, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” In other words, though every person turns against us, usually based on misleading information, the Lord knows the heart, and will, as Isaiah 54 puts it, “refute every tongue that accuses us.” He will hold us in the palm of His hand and dry every tear. The knowledge of God’s amazing love gives us the power to forgive those offenses and be aware of misleading situations so as to not offend others ourselves. No matter what floats about in the thoughts of others, we can rest in the comforting arms of the Lord, for He is where truth abides.

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My Journey… (short version)

My prayer life opened up a few years back when I was able to grasp the end of “The Lord’s Prayer” which most do not quote: “For if you cannot forgive, how can you be forgiven?”  (my shortened version). I lived a lot of years in a very dark place, very bitter and angry, with no hope. I experienced the hypocrisy of so-called Christians and naturally ended up turning away. I had been hurt more by Christians than non-Christians. I was lied to, lied about, and victimized. In my self-protection, I became the villain. As a teenager I lived on the wild side. I was always the life of the party…but full of bitterness and very self-destructive.

After spiraling down so far my very existence was nearly wiped out, God arranged a meeting for me with Jesus during Senior Church Camp. My presence in that camp alone was nothing but a miracle. But, deep down in that vacuum hole, I wanted freedom from the torment in my soul. I couldn’t comprehend God’s love at the time, but I sensed there was a God somewhere out there that was unlike the picture man had modeled before me.

After having my first baby, I spent the next several years trying to “work” my way to forgiveness… and acceptance. Eventually, I hated myself for being religious too. Then, in the late 90′s, while keeping up appearances on the outside, my soul fell into a deep dark hole. There was no way I was going to live. Of course, there was not going to be a suicide (for I could not have my kids live with that picture), but death is what I felt I deserved. I was self-destructive…again. Life was not worth living. I felt like a failure to everyone…especially my father. Through a series of events, the Lord broke through my bondage, and allowed me to see myself the way He sees me…not the ugly way I saw me…or the critical way the world saw me. The morning I was at the end, I scribbled these words…

My feet brush soft grass, stillness fills damp air.
Bones lie six feet under, no hope for a prayer.
 
The passion for love is lost in life’s yesterday.
The gravedigger rests as dreams and hope decay.
 
Existence disappears, waters rage in life’s sin.
Innocent dreams are dead. Wrongs are silent within.

That very afternoon, I literally saw the Lord’s hands reach out to me with his nail scarred piercings (this was before the movie, Passion of the Christ!). I realized He really did want to forgive me, and accepted me just as he did the woman at the well. But I had to forgive those who destroyed me. And, more important, I had to forgive me, and to accept His forgiveness for all my failings. The Lord was able to calm my heart and let me know we really are “fearfully and wonderfully made” . When no one else knew me, knew my dark secrets, the Lord saw me when I was yet unformed…and loved me. I don’t understand how, but when I released my hurt, bitterness, and anger, the Holy Spirit filled my empty soul with love and endless joy!

Isaiah 54

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote down my journey after God rescued me from that dark pit…

My Journey

A tiny infant cries, for comfort from the womb.
     Through pain and agony, innocence fills the room.
A child peacefully plays, her tender smile displayed.
     Ignorance surrounds her, a carefree life portrayed.

She tastes the sin of those, who take for their own will.
     Her chastity obscured; her innocence to kill.
Rejected and alone, the pain she tries to hide.
     Embarrassment and shame, she buries deep inside.

Desperate to escape, destruction is her life.
     Hope and love are lost to bitterness and strife.
Weeping for lost passion; tormented in her soul.
     Severed from affection; still longing to be whole.

Two hands with nail-scarred stain wait gently for her call.
     Longing to bring healing, if she would give her all.
Lost deep in dark despair, with sorrow for her sin.
     She opens up her soul, and reaches out to him.

Quietly a small spark, burns deep inside her soul,
    reminding her dead heart, Christ’s love makes one whole.
Forgiveness she has found, from one whose life He gave,
     for those who least deserve, the grace He gives to save.

The life He gave for all, cleansed her pain and sin,
     washing her white as snow, giving new life within.
A smile is in her heart. Christ’s love has healed her scars.
     As joy delights her soul, new life shines bright as stars!!

Me~

Life after that day was not perfect nor without pain. I still ended up with a few shattered relationships, and live with the consequences of my past. But I know who I am in Christ. I finally have God’s perspective, purpose, and hope. Psalm 27:10 says though even my parents do not accept me, I have peace knowing that God accepts me, and makes me His own! He also said in Isaiah 54 that I was like a wife who married young, only to be rejected…and He brought me back with deep compassion! The Lord almighty is my redeemer and He is my husband. He really is a God of Restoration. In Isaiah 61, He bound up my broken heart, gave me freedom from captivity, released me from the darkness, gave me beauty for ashes, and restored my soul! There is NO pit too dark that His light cannot shine through!

 

Psalm 27.10 

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After Divorce…A New Drama Begins…

Continued from my very first post, here: Divorce…Necessary Drama??

So…after the divorce…The parents move on. The kids adjust. Everyone establishes a new life full of peace, without the fighting and drama from their former marriage. We all blissfully co-exist…

Oh, if only this scenario were true. In reality, the lonely parents try to find new love with guarded hearts, now full of baggage. The kids build walls to guard against further relational hurt. Friendships shift into his or hers, or not at all. Family members pick sides. A new drama begins.

When marriages crumble, the Trinity is severed. Our God-reflection is shattered. The culture of our world is forever marred. Future generations walk a broken path. Consequences follow us the rest of our lives.

Children look at the family unit as a reflection of the God-head, the Trinity (see Eph. 5:22-33):

God… the Father

Jesus… the marriage

The Holy Spirit… the family unit (the children)

In divorce, no matter what the cause, when the family is split the Spirit is severed. The God-head correlation is distorted. Their security in the unity they once trusted has disappeared. The consequence is a warped view of what constitutes real love. Children lose sight of God’s love for them when the love of the family grows cold. They wonder how God can love them when the example of the God-head before them has split into two households.

Emotionally, everyone, especially children, will experience the same stages as in mourning of death. Bitterness sets in and their lives become self-destructive. Children see the broken trust between their parents and that brokenness is transferred to their own hearts. Children of divorce are more likely to experience divorce themselves. They do not have true commitment modeled before them. It is easier to walk away from their own marriages when they experienced their parents walk away from their marriages…and they feel their parents walked away from them.

After the separation, the children face the adjustments of an empty house and/or a new home. Babysitters and latch-key kids replace the constant of a nurturing parent. Children long for the connection of their missing parent. Resentment sets in for the parent most blamed. Some will blame the custodial parent; feeling like the custodial parent pushed out or ran off the other parent. Or, some will blame the non-custodial parent; with feelings of desertion, rejection, and failure. Most of the time, the children blame themselves. The reality of a separated family is indescribable.

The authority structure is shifted causing the children to lose respect for anyone who attempts to lead, whether it is parent, teacher, or government. Discipline becomes either non-existent or rejected. Studies show once well-adjusted children (and especially teens) become unruly, disrespectful, and bitter. Most of the damage from the parent’s divorce is neglected, ignored, or stifled, thereby carried into their own subsequent marriages. The experts say the Millennial Generation has chosen to cohabitation rather than to marry. Unfortunately, this arrangement brings up another host of dysfunction.

At the first separation, the parents (especially the mother) are so consumed with surviving; they do not recognize the hurt inflicted on the children. Each spouse believes the children will “believe” their side. After all, if the parent does not like someone, naturally, their children will not like them either…right? Except in this case…the other person happens to be the other parent. No bond is greater than the parent bond…with both parents, no matter how bad the parent. Have you ever sat on half a toilet? The result has the same correlation in the life of a child of divorce. They feel nothing works right and every time they try to succeed, they end up with a mess all over the floor. Since the trust has been severed with the parents, they run to the closest “janitor” to help clean up their family mess. Unfortunately, the people the children seek help from are usually their friends who are going through the same. They gather advice from wounded healers, driving the bitterness deeper while learning to put on masks of false strength.

Is there hope? Is there help? Family and friends tend to pick sides, without seeking unity. Most in the church are too busy condemning the break-up to unconditionally love, forgive, and restore the rejected or the wayward. Where does a hurting person turn? We look to the beginning. Would not the One who created mankind know what is best for mankind? Don’t look at the picture mankind has created of the Godhead…look at who the Godhead really is. Search Him out for yourself.

My biggest goal in writing this blog is to help hurting people. Sometimes, we have to see the darkness on the other side of the door to keep us from opening it and walking through. I have been on both sides. No matter which side of divorce you are sitting, please realize; the side that has the greenest grass is the side in which you cultivate, fertilize, and water. Start watering with the Word. Not the word of religiosity, but the Word of God’s infinite love. Are you seeking revenge for the person who wounded or deserted you? Trust me; your actions will only backfire. Let it go…out of your heart. Leave the revenge, judgments, and the other person to God. Your peace will only come when the truth of God’s love fills your heart.

You do not have to get cleaned up to take a bath. Neither do you have to be religiously perfect before you can experience God’s love. Realize God loves the person, while hating the sin. Pride, bitterness, and revenge only destroy you, not the other person. Seek forgiveness for your partThen extend forgiveness to those who sought to destroy you. Repentance, forgiveness, and restoration are for anyone who trusts in the Lord. Rest in God’s love. God created you. God accepts you. God can turn your ashes into beauty!

 Isaiah 61.3

Isaiah 61

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