Life Lessons

As a parent, when your child asks you for something, maybe money, maybe a toy, that you believe to be either impractical or a poor use of the money, you have the option to simply say “No” or you can decide to use it as a teachable moment.

Despite parenting advice from others and reading (piles of books) about teaching your children, many times for us it’s just “no”. Sometimes with three kids, you just don’t have all the energy for teaching. Then one of my kids, often the middle child, begins to practice his debating skills. I swear that kid’s going to be a stellar defense attorney someday. He can rationalize anything.

“So mom, if you give me a quarter then I will give you 21 cents, then I will have 50 cents and I need 50 cents, I will have two quarters then I will be able to get two prizes out of the grabber machine, then I will have two prizes and then I won’t need 50 cents anymore.”

At that point, two other children have called my name 20 times during the explanation and I’m lost. “Ok here’s 50 cents.”

But sometimes, like yesterday at the fair, hubby and I decide we will teach our children a life lesson. Life Lesson: the contests at the fair are rigged, you don’t always get a prize, and usually you waste your money.

As usual, middle child negotiated himself and brother and sister into the opportunity to play a $5 ring toss game in efforts to win a stuffed animal prize. “Mom this is gonna be easy.”

The trick is you have to toss the equivalent of a frisbee ring around the neck of a large rubber ducky floating in a pool packed full of other large rubber duckies. Still seems easy but it’s very specific that the ring has to go all the way around the neck of the duck. No hang-up on the bill or the tail, perfectly over the neck. However, the proximity to all of the other ducks in the pool and the speed of the water movement of the ducks and the diameter of the hole in the frisbee, are all factors that make it a fair-ly complicated game… especially for a kindergartener, first, and second grader.

So here we are: you can either keep the $5 and buy something on the trip or from the concession stand, OR you can play the game with the likelihood that you will not get a prize.

Step on up, carnival worker, we’ve got 3 takers for the ring toss.

The oldest quickly tossed all his rings with most of his rings bouncing away, only one went over the head of a duck, but hung up on the beak for no prizes.

Next baby girl and middle child quickly begin tossing their rings, seemingly with little aim or precision, haphazardly bouncing off one duck head and into another. When the dust had cleared, not only did one, but both babies had scored a ring clean around the duck necks.

Two prizes scored.

Lesson learned.

Or was it. 🤦‍♀️

One child came away with no prize so as we walked to the car, two children cuddling newly won stuffed animals, one empty-handed, we had a discussion about gambling and prizes you don’t earn.

We talked about how the Bible tells us we should place value on things that are eternal, not on toys or possessions because they are used up quickly. And then one of them said, “You know, mom, if you don’t have to work very hard for something, it’s not as special.”

Before my heart could swell up with pride or the tears could reach my eyes, middle child quipped back, “yeah, but I told you that game would be easy, and my lion is pretty special.”

To the older mom:

To the older mom who gives unsolicited parenting criticism:
When you see me in Target and my Toddler is throwing a fit,
Don’t shake your head and mutter that a spanking is what he should get.
You don’t know his schedule or all that we’ve been through,
You can’t see his special needs or the therapy he’s had to do.
I already know you are annoyed as you stand behind us in line,
and you listen as I tell him “no” for what might be the hundredth time.
We probably could have skipped the trip for milk here at the store,
But the walls were closing in on us and we needed the fresh air more.
If you could just muster a smile for this mom who’s out of sorts,
And remind me that the days are long but the years are oh so short.
Kind words seem to give me strength to make it through the day,
From a mom who’s been where I am, a look of understanding would go a long way.

To the lady at church, who frowns when my kids come dancing in:
Do you remember when your little ones were young?
I’m sure they never ran around or bothered anyone.
Mine seem to have more energy than anyone can handle,
When it comes to wild behavior not many can hold a candle
It takes so long to get them ready and then they need to be changed, Have mercy on us when we pile into church, already covered in stains.
I barely remembered my makeup and my earrings aren’t the same.
My kids are wearing T-shirts instead of outfits that coordinate.
I almost turned the car around as we headed here today,
for fear that we’d be judged for showing up this way
And out of sheer frustration with the activities of the day.
But I was just so desperate for a chance for someone to say “It’s okay!”
To hear the sermon and sit quietly, it was worth the possible insult. Maybe instead of frowning and judging quietly,
you could welcome us or ask if there’s anything you can do
It would mean so much to us for you to say that Jesus loves us too.

To the mom on Facebook, making it look so easy:
Be honest every once in a while, and take a photo without perfection
When I look at your filtered face and makeup, I see why you have everyone’s affection
Somehow after giving birth, a model we all could see
You barely appeared to gain a pound during your pregnancy.
When I compare my bloated belly to the skinny one you post,
I recall I’ve only lost a couple pounds at the very most.
The images you show and the life that you portray,
Seem perfect and organized in every single way.
My real life of problems, forgetting something every day,
Appear somehow less than yours, so let me ask you if I may,
Show me a picture of your child when they are messy,
or wearing something worn
Do you own a regular outfit or in smocked outfits your babies were born?
Can I see a belly roll or just a hint of fat?
Maybe without makeup or wearing a baseball hat?
I know I’m not the only one, tell me that you have stumbled too.
Feeling others understand the struggle that I’m going through,
gives me energy to keep going and encourage others too.
Even when I’m less than my best, I know together we can make it through.

To the Mom who is reading these words:
None of us are perfect, God made us with a need for him.
Just like our little babies, we cry out when we see the darkness closing in.
Lean not on what you understand, He’s growing you every day.
Give yourself a little grace when you feel you’re failing in every way.
Daily walking in his word and holding tight to him,
is the only way to revive your soul, when you haven’t slept for days on end.
Sing aloud a song of praise that God’s put in your heart, Those days that leave you crying will all too soon depart.
Just know that you are not alone, we are all right here beside you in this thing called-motherhood
No matter how it hard it feels, your best is plenty good.

I love you, mom-friend. -and so does my Jesus.

How Do I know what God wants me to do?

As I type, it’s not lost on me just how ludicrous it is that I would be writing about discerning God’s will, as if I am some kind of an expert on the subject. I’m not. I am no Bible Scholar. I don’t claim to have prayers that have any more value or hold any more weight than yours. I have wrestled a good deal with the question and with God, and I simply hope to enlighten you as to my conclusions and some things I have learned along the way, and to maybe encourage you to consider the question for yourself.

If this isn’t your first time reading my blog, you know that we are moving down the path toward becoming foster parents. You don’t know all of the struggling that has gone into that decision, and you don’t know some of the very recent difficult changes we have made to move us in that direction. You have no clue how much it has forced us to rely solely on our ability to understand what we hear God telling us to do. While I fully trust God, with every aspect of my life, I do not fully trust in my ability to “hear” him. I often feel as if I am listening on a cell phone line full of static and breaks in coverage. “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”

Here are a few conclusions I’ve made. First, as far as I know, God no longer speaks aloud to anyone with instructions. So when I say God told me to do this or that, I mean I understood him to be guiding me through my understanding of the feelings I have (As a believer, I don’t really believe much in conscience, I believe those feelings are the Holy Spirit.) This is only as good as the interpretation of the feeling. I must emphasize here how important it is to have spent time with God regularly, so that when he speaks you recognize that it’s God talking, and not your own imagination. A preacher once said, “If you’re trying to discern whether or not God is telling you to do something, consider whether it’s something you want to do or not. God doesn’t usually ask you to do something that’s easy or that comes natural to you. His ways are not your ways. He asks you to do things that stretch you out of your comfort zone.” Makes sense right? I mean why would God work so hard to get your attention to ask you to do something you were already going to do. In the same way, we’ve all been skeptical of the person who claims God told them to kill their spouse or lie to their co-worker. That’s not how God works. He’s more likely to tell you to forgive your spouse or tell the truth even if it costs you something. Jesus tends to ask for sacrifice not selfishness.

Second, God did give us the Bible, His word, that is living and relevant, to guide us. So while He may not verbally instruct us, he gives us rules, standards and consequences to live by. The Bible doesn’t change. God’s word is a constant. It speaks of his character: unchanging, unmoving, all-knowing, all present. When we are looking for answers about what God wants us to do in any given situation, we can be sure that His will for our lives and our decisions, will never contradict what he has told us in the Bible. Finally, I believe the Bible to be true. When He talks about His love for His people and that those who call on His name will be saved, that He has a purpose and a plan for His people, that no pain or sorrow will be in vain, and that those who place themselves last will be first in His kingdom. I believe that He uses all things for the benefit of His kingdom, but in a way that you or I would never predict. He uses us as his hands and feet (I know, you’ve heard that a few times before), literally I can’t tell you the number of times I have witnessed someone who just had a nudge to call or stop by to visit someone and it changed the person’s whole day, even life story.

If you believe those little nudges we feel in our soul are the work of the Holy Spirit moving us to work on his behalf. What happens when we don’t listen and respond to the nudges?

So here’s where I’m headed with all of this: If the Bible is the word of God, we need to read it to know what He says. And if He is talking to us through the Bible then we need to be talking back to Him with prayer…So we ask and talk and tell Him all the things He pretty much already knows about us. Then we read His word and wait…and listen with our hearts…and wait some more, because sometimes we “hear” His answers like a nudge as we go about our daily lives. There are times when we hear the answer like a peace in our soul as we waver between the next right choice, and sometimes it’s like a pain or dread about what is about to happen or a place we shouldn’t go. Other times it hits us like a ton of bricks all at once or a barrage of bullets ricocheting all around us that we can’t avoid.

There’s a story in Judges 6-7 (Bible) about Gideon. God tells him that he is going to use him to save Israel from the Mideonites, who had taken them into captivity, but Gideon isn’t sure he hears correctly. He tells God that he will put out a fleece over night and he asks God to make the the ground dry but the fleece wet, that will confirm that the message is from God. The next morning it is exactly as he said, the ground is wet but the fleece is dry, but Gideon is not convinced. He thinks maybe that was an accident and he wants to be sure. So he asks again. This time he reverses it, dry ground/wet fleece…a little more complicated. Again, when he wakes up God has kept the ground dry and the fleece is now wet.

God doesn’t get angry with Gideon. Why? Doesn’t it seem that Gideon was testing God? I believe he really wanted to be sure, his heart was pure. And God had a plan to use Gideon, but He needed Gideon’s full trust. There was much more coming and God needed Gideon to trust Him. He wanted to show Gideon a real miracle. God likes to do things in a way that shows his ability. When God performs a miracle for us, He likes for us to know it wasn’t an accident. When God showed up for Gideon later, it was big. He reduced the numbers in Gideon’s army to such a small group that men would have said it was insane to go into battle. God gave Gideon his small miracles, so that when Gideon needed faith for a big miracle, he would have it. Don’t you wish we could put the fleece out with a little question for God and wait for an answer. I suspect that God has given you a few fleeces along the way. He’s confirmed your “intuition” and he’s rewarded your faithfulness in little ways (make sure you look back on those…I like to keep a list) so that when the bigger ones come along, you are ready to leap out on faith.

I think we hear God speaking to us more often than we think we do. Sometimes we hear our own fears louder than the Holy Spirit. Maybe we need to put the fear speaker on mute, and put the Bible a little closer to our ear.

Joy in all circumstances

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“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalms 16:11

I’ve been busy lately with some changes to my life in general, changes at work, changes in seasons, changes in routines, changes in my children’s behavior, changes in new people coming into our life, changes in expectations for the future and plans. In the midst of all of those changes, God has given me a true peace as we have navigated some really turbulent waters. He has convicted me and asked me to act on things that required me to step out into that water with no life jacket. He has asked me to take my family out there with me. I don’t love change, I really don’t care for conflict, and I certainly don’t like risks, yet here we are.

All that to say, I don’t mean to be cryptic and there will be a bigger post soon to come, but I have been unable to think clearly about what or how to write because I fear my brain has been clogged with schedules and details and, honestly, FEAR and guilt. But in the midst of that I begin to be more aware of emerging from a fog of early motherhood, into a new stage where I am allowed to have hobbies that do not include my kids. I’m allowed to shower without an audience and potty with the door closed. I’m allowed to sneak away for a short trip and not feel guilty. My kids are okay and so am I.

Social media is simultaneously the most wonderful and most horrible thing for me. For someone with anxiety, social media can be a catalyst for worry and over-analysis. But when it comes to ideas and connecting to lots of people, for marketers, for sales, there is no better outlet. This week I found myself thinking a lot about all of the mom groups, blogs, posts, classes, books that I am a part of or contribute to. As moms we all struggle to be patient and kind, while sacrificing our very being at times for our children. We.Do.All.The.Things. and then we wake up after little sleep and do it all over again. It’s no wonder why social media is filled with quotes about how “my kids whine, I wine” or complaints about surviving until bedtime or leaving them home alone. Now hear me clearly, I realize that most of the quotes are ones that are only half meant serious. But those words can sting. Imagine growing up knowing your mom would rather do anything other than play with you, or sighing loudly when you speak to her, if she made jokes about how annoying or difficult you were. I don’t want to foster those insecurities in my children, they have enough to battle without me heaping burning coals on their heads.

Even further than that, mother, you were made in the image of God and you were given the blessing of precious little ones. They are your mission field. Stop acting so downtrodden and lets see if we can show others the hope we have in God for our future. Ladies are watching you, christian mother, there are women online who read your posts, do they see hope? do they see mercy and forgiveness when your children have a bad day or your husband comes home late? Do others see a bitter heart or a servants heart? What makes you stand out from the hopeless mothers online? I’m not advocating that you paint an untrue picture. I’m saying: FIND JOY.

Find Joy in your children. If you are on the struggle bus to Fussy Town, find something to laugh at. If theres a spill, don’t cry or yell. Use it as an excuse to put the babies in the bathtub to play. Take pictures of the happy times. Give yourself permission to play and tell others about it. I’m terrible at play, I have no imagination but I can make a funny voice or tell a joke while I read a book. I can sing a song while we clean. I’m great at making homemade playdoh and slime. Find your niche and do that thing with joy.

Find joy in Jesus. Read a verse, a story, listen to a christian podcast where they read the word of God to you EVERY DAY. Delight in God’s creation: get outside, take your kids outside and enjoy the backyard through their eyes. Look at all the amazing creatures there are just in the bug world, but also space, rock formation, plants. Fresh air is good for the spirit. Tell your kids how God made the dirt and the rocks, God made the beautiful butterfiles to be all different colors, God made the singing bird and the tadpoles in the stream. Talk to them and yourself about how smart God is and what a creative imagination God has. It’s hard not to have joy when you look beyond yourself to his great big creation.

Find Joy in a hobby or friendship or side hustle. Find a passion, get your creative juices going. Keep trying, if yoga ain’t your thing, try something else. KEEP TRYING all the things until you find IT!…The thing you are passionate about. And then make time to do it. Make your passion a priority each week so that you get filled back up and your mind gets to work. A busy thinking mind is the opposite of an idle mind. You know what they say about idle hands? Well an idle mind is the opposite of finding Joy…an idle mind compares, envies, lusts, and complains. A busy creative mind has only time for doing and finding and giving Joy.

And when you find your joy, please post about it…tell others about what helped you!…If it’s an exercise or fitness plan, if it’s a MLM side hustle job, if it’s a supplement or vitamin, if it’s painting, running, walking, blogging, writing, photography, a mission to promote awareness for a social issue, church work, volunteering, a part time job, a full time job, sewing, vinyl, etsy sales, baking, cooking, Bible study…..LADIES, there are so many things to do that surely you can find something you enjoy doing besides whining on social media.

So before you take it the wrong way, Here’s what I am really saying: Momming IS hard! “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. ” Colossians 1:10-11

Quit complaining and remember that we were all made to be servants of the one true king. SERVE your people and then refresh and then serve again. But “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15b

A New Craving

As a couple, Neil and I started our marriage off with a lot of good habits. Pre-kids, we exercised together. I ran several marathons. We ate healthy, even completed P90X with the diet and all of the training. And then we decided to have kids. (cue the DUH-DUM from LAW & ORDER) I have endometriosis, undiagnosed prior to our difficulties having children, but when I went off of my oral birth control, something changed for me. I now know it was hormone regulation and my body having withdrawals from the removal of a hormone I had depended on for many years, and thryoid or adrenal fatigue.

I began BC very early in an attempt to regulate severe bleeding, cramping, and migraines that surrounded my cycle. The headaches were almost constant only varying throughout the month in severity beginning in about 8th grade. I only finally found relief through the birth control/hormone regulation and prescription beta blocker in a low dose. However, when the hormone regulation of birth control ended, two things happened: my headaches returned with a vengeance and (unknown to me) my endometriosis began to flourish, creating fibroids throughout my abdomen. As we tried to have a baby, I began to feel guilt over my use of birth control for years as if it was my fault because of that, I felt frustrated, inadequate and desperate. But all of those were feelings that had not been a reality for me prior to this struggle. I was depressed. My body rebelled through fatigue and weight gain, the return of cramping, which was like a stabbing reminder each month that “THE TEST” was negative again. I didn’t feel like exercise or eating right, I felt depressed and foggy and I wanted a baby!!

I won’t go into more detail here except to say that the babies eventually came….God blessed us three times over. SO SO SO BLESSED! During pregnancy and after pregnancy I allowed myself to eat mostly whatever I wanted. I enjoyed pregnancy and felt amazing due to all of the hormones that surged through my body! My energy was back! I even painted all of the cabinets and rooms in my house at that time. I was almost addicted to how good I felt. I would have another child in a heartbeat just to be pregnant again. I loved it, there’s nothing better for me. But I totally let myself go, no diet rules or exercise. I just fed the baby (right!?!?).

Fortunately for me, I really didn’t have much trouble losing my pregnancy weight, but the 10lbs I gained while we were trying to get pregnant just would not come off. I didn’t want to pick back up exercise and eating right because I was busy with all the babies and working! In the last couple months, through my husband’s gentle prodding, I have decided to begin the health journey again. Sparked by the use of Plexus products, I am exercising and running again. I feel motivated to work hard and my energy has returned. We have returned to healthy eating as well. We started a KeTO friendly lifestyle, severely reducing our carbohydrates and our sugar and eating whole, healthy foods and less processed foods. We are finally really making consistently good choices again. My headaches are gone, along with the endometriosis, and I’m truly enjoying my life and my family, finally.

Food and diet can be tricky, your body tells you that you want one thing, your mind/conscience says another. The more you think about what you can’t have, the more you want it! However, if you’ve ever eaten whole foods for over a month, meaning…no sugar, no complex carbs, and NO SODA, you will recall that your taste buds actually change. It’s hard to say exactly what changes, are they more or less sensitive? I don’t know, but I know after repeating the habit for the choice of healthy whole foods over and over again…your body begins to quit craving the sugary or salty complex carbohydrates. And your tongue begins to really enjoy the taste of whole foods; fruits are sweeter, vegetables are more flavorful, and even meats are more rich in taste.

This can be true of our spiritual life as well. I have always been inconsistent at best with individual Bible Study. I would start with a great study or plan, I would make time to read for 2-3 days and then when the newness of the study washed away, so did I. I would complete Bible classes out of duty, even working through Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer studies with church groups but the reading of the Bible was painful for me. This was not because I didn’t love God, but because I didn’t have a desire for the really good stuff. I wanted or needed to be spoon-fed some feel-good messages that would convict or educate me and then move on to my regular life. I had a desire, but not a plan I could stick with. I’m so thankful that his year I was challenged by a friend to begin a Read through the Bible study. I determined and committed to use this study to motivate me to really getting my daily routine to spend time in God’s actual word, instead of listening to a podcast about God, or a sermon about God’s word.

I remember a pastor I really respect admitting once that he had a really hard time reading the Bible when he was younger and that he had prayed over it, that he had asked God to give him the desire to read the word and understand it, so that he would be able to KNOW GOD more. He admitted over time that his love for the word of God had grown to the point of actually WANTING to read the Bible, even missing it if he skipped it one day. He found that with the building of the habit of daily reading his Bible that his desire to read it increased with the increased understanding of the word. The more he read, the more he knew; the more he knew, the more he wanted to know; the more he wanted to know, the more he understood and came to love God. I want that for myself.

So this year along with determining to physically get more healthy, I decided that I would commit myself to become more spiritually healthy. New Year resolutions are the kiss of death for me, so I did not make a “resolution,” I just decided, committed and got accountable. When my friend asked me to do the study, I said “YES” and when I say “YES” – I mean it. So while I have missed a day or two in the study. I have finished out each week. If I have missed a day, I have completed two the next day…making sure that as I am reading the Bible through I am using my guide to help me to not only read, but understand and stick with what I am reading.

I’m using the book, “FOUNDATIONS” by Robby and Kandi Gallaty. It does not hit every chapter of the Bible. It highlights the major chapters, pulls out details and emphasizes important events and figures. I have read old stories with a renewed insight, understanding, and in some cases with facts I have never uncovered before. I plan to share my next post on some insights I found in 1 Samuel on David and Goliath, which I may have read to my children 979,000 times, yet, God’s word is living and breathing and eternally relevant and applicable. I’m discovering that with the consistent taking-in of God’s HOLY, TRUE word, my tastes have changed! I no longer want to listen to someone’s thoughts on God’s word…I want to see what God has to say. I want to hear God’s words in my head. I want to understand HIS thoughts, and his expectations. The character of God is revealed in his word, through his actions, his interactions with his people, his words to his people, and even through his patience and then anger with his people. I’ve found that as I read more of God’s word, I no longer want the sugar-coated gospel, I want the MEAT and POTATO Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I want to give Him every single breath, penny, moment, and ounce of effort I have to get it. If the book I’m holding is powerful enough to still be speaking his real words to me and bringing me to my knees because it is so powerfully relevant to the struggle I’m in on the very day I’m reading it, thousands of years after it was written, then the God who wrote it, spoke it, inspired it, is so powerful and timeless that I can never be able to fully know Him, but I don’t want to miss a chance to keep knowing more.

Hebrews 5:12-14 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need mild, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

When God becomes Common

 

     Once upon a time, a teacher of mine told us a story about the men who made the earliest copies of the Bible. It stuck with me and I think about it often. She described how the names for God, Yahweh or Jehovah, were so revered and respected that the religious scholars would stop prior to writing the name. They would put down their pen and purify themselves, pray, change clothes, even change and consecrate the pen they were using before they returned to write the name of God and then they would put that sacred pen aside, change their clothes, pray and return to the older pen and writing the remainder of the text. Imagine a passage that had the name of God 20 times to a page. They did this. Every. Single. Time. No matter how long it took, they did it out of reverence and respect for their God.

     And now, we carelessly toss around those Bibles so reverently printed just like we carelessly use the name of the Almighty, Everlasting, Prince of Peace in exclamations about mundane details of our temporary lives (OMG! or OH LAWD? OH MY GAWD or Jesus Christ!…right?). We can walk into a store or go online and access our own Bible app or purchase a Bible for less than $20. We can read it in any language we choose. The accessibility has decreased the value of something that is invaluable, while there are believers in other countries who are literally dying for their Bibles. 

     I recently saw a posting on Facebook that implied that as Christians we are to be un-offend-able. The author intended it to be a commentary on how judgmental Christians are when they condemn the sins of others or are unaccepting of those who don’t look or act “Christian”. I read it a few times, but for some reason but for some reason my mind kept jumping to the idea there are times when maybe we should be more offended, not by the person but by the sin. Loving the person, does not equal accepting the sin. 

     Almighty God was so offended by our sins that he had to eject Adam and Eve from the garden, right out of his presence. In order to allow his people, the Israelites, to be able to meet with him, God instructed them to create a tabernacle with an innermost place for the ark of the covenant to dwell. There were very specific protocols required to even get close to the meeting place and the throne of God. Sacrifices (blood) had to be made to cover the sins of the people. When David moved the ark of the covenant without permission, even with good intent, a man who reached to touch the ark to steady it, was immediately struck dead. The Bible says Moses was the only man who was able to speak to God, face to face. When He was allowed to see God passing by, it turned his hair white and gave him a glowing presence.  God requires reverence. God is so awesome and powerful that even his name requires awe and respect.

     There is little today in America that evokes reverence anymore.  That is “first world” problems. There used to be an awe that accompanied the presence of the President of the United States. Today it seems a sport to make accusations and tear down or criticize POTUS or any other person of high rank. The police are not given respect due their title. We see men and women attacking police, videos of normal people acting like maniacs when pulled over for a traffic violation.  We have become numb from too many youTube videos of men behaving badly or we’ve grown to enjoy it like a modern day gladiator/spectator sport. I don’t mean to say that these average men and women are different than you and I; I mean that, as a society, we no longer show respect to positions of authority because it is the right thing to do. It would seem that it is the opposite: we look for reasons not to give respect to others as if somehow giving that respect demotes our position.  How can we then expect to show a proper respect for God? We have already lost sight of the two greatest commandments. Love your neighbor as yourself and Love your God with all your heart, soul and mind. 

     God has become common when we no longer say his name in prayer but we constantly say his name in vain. When we curse with his name but we aren’t allowed to bless with his name (in public). I believe that we should be offended by the use of the HOLY NAME OF GOD by those who do not seek to point to him, but by those who curse him, denounce him and deny him or just tell lies about his character. Jesus came to forgive our sins and once he conquered death, he left behind the HOLY SPIRIT to LIVE IN US.  If you are a born again Christian, you have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (living in you!) and that spirit should prick your heart to the disrespect of the Father.  If you have become so numb to the denial of the holiness of God, I pray that you will seek to grow closer to him and draw near to him. Satan is using many tricks these days but his favorite dates all the way back to the garden, “Did God really say ‘Don’t eat the fruit from this tree?’ He just doesn’t want you to be like him, having all knowledge of good and evil” Satan still wants to convince us that God is just trying to hold us down, we don’t have to obey him because, “Who does he think he is? to tell us that we have to respect him, and obey his commands and Love him with all our hearts? Did He really say that?” and besides Jesus likes us, so he would want us to be happy and speak and act however I would want, right? When we treat the name of Jesus like any other word, we demote him. We put him on our level and that’s just what Satan wants. Jesus ain’t your homeboy. Jesus is the PRINCE OF PEACE and the SON of the ALMIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, ALPHA and OMEGA, THE GREAT I AM, THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, THE KING OF KINGS, and FATHER TO THE FATHERLESS. 

     Sometimes when I think about family, I get a picture in my minds eye of the movie Godfather.  For Vito Corleone, it was all about family.  He would sacrifice everything for family, even when he disagreed with them. No one was going to talk about his mother, or his brother, or his father. How much would you burn against someone who criticized your mother or father, cursed them, vowed to take them down? Should you not be expected to have righteous hurt and anger against anyone who spoke that way against your heavenly father who sacrificed the life of his son for you?

    If you are reading this I want to challenge you to listen carefully, now that I have drawn your attention to it. Listen for the name of God, on your lips, on television, around you, and ponder it in your heart. Maybe it’s ok to feel offended when people make your God common. 

 

Chalk Paint

I’m not really artistic, like an artist, but I do like to re-create. I’m more of a good imagineer … yes, I like that: Sort of a good mix between imagination and engineering. I like to use old things, like old furniture, old dishes and old tools, and find uses for them. One of my favorite tools for recreating my finds is chalk paint.

When I first started painting with chalk paint I wondered why I hadn’t painted more furniture in my life. In fact, I began to fancy myself a pretty great painter. Chalk paint is very forgiving. You can paint over any type of surface without sanding it first and it sort of fills in and smooths out the surface. You can sand it, distress it, wax it and you get a beautiful smooth coat of paint with no brush strokes.

And then, the day came when I decided to use some latex paint on a dresser I was painting for Brynn. After just one coat of latex paint I remembered why I don’t paint with it more! It took a great deal more finesse and about 3 more coats of paint before I managed to finally create something I was proud of.

I mistook the quality of my tools, for an improvement in my skills. The final product had much less to do with me and much more to do with the paint I was using. The type of paint made me better and made my creation better too.

When it comes to your life and what you are creating, what kind of paint are you using? Are you choosing paint that makes you better or a paint that highlights your mistakes? Are your friends filling in your cracks or pointing them out? I wonder, do you feel loved by those around you or do they tear you down? You have the ability to be the chalk paint for those around you. Choose to make their lives better, smoother, easier if possible. And choose to overlook the times when they are latex paint, or rub up against them and maybe smooth them out a little when you can.

We aren’t all born with access to the same tools. Circumstances, parents, place of birth, education, even genetics, play a part in which paint we can choose for our lives. Many wish to paint a smooth surface but it seems dust keeps landing on the surface, or the paint clumps up and it has to be sanded down and started over, again and again. But, if you are a believer, you are encouraged to know that the tools you’ve been given are all part of your master story. Because, in truth, you aren’t actually the one doing the painting at all. There’s an artist that’s creating a much bigger masterpiece and he’s using you and your circumstances to do it. He’s using all the best tools, the best paint, best brushes, best timing, best canvas and he’s putting them together in the most perfect way.

What we consider to be the best is much different than what HE considers the best. Our God looks not at the surface but at what is underneath, what’s in the heart, the details. He makes all things beautiful. All those things that to you look like cracks or imperfections, bumps or blemishes, from his perspective, those are just the tiny details that work the perfect highlights onto the picture he’s painting of the face of Christ.

“He has filled them with every kind of skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver– by any sort of Workman or skilled designer.”

Exodus 35:35