Are We Too Familiar?

Are We Too Familiar

Familiarity breeds contempt.

That was my answer. The question asked, ” How is it that we have managed to kill gratitude in our lives? Why do we feel a sense of entitlement instead of thankfulness?” (Philippians (To live is Christ & to die is Gain), Chandler, 2011)

At the time, I was thinking of our pastors. As we know them, as we see their human frailties, as we become familiar with them and their lives, we can allow the devil to breed contempt in our hearts. It is not like we are having to sneak around to have church, or that our pastors are putting their lives on the line every day, willingly exposing themselves to be drug out into the street and killed. I think if they were, our contempt would be squashed rather quickly.

Just last week, I began thinking about the very word of God. How familiar we are with it and what ease we have accessing it. Most of us aren’t reading our Bibles in secret for fear of our lives. No longer do we need to rely on tattered pages to read the Scriptures. We can have any verse right at our fingertips electronically any time we want. No longer do I need to scour the pages of my Bible or a concordance to find the scripture I am looking for. The internet has made it only a search away.

I am not saying those are bad things. I use my Bible on my iPhone. I love Bible Gateway. But I wonder if our familiarity with the Word has allowed a level of contempt to arise.  I wonder if we have lost the awe found in the sound of rustling pages? If the ease at which we can access it has caused our hearts to view it as only another book on our Kindles or our Nooks? As the tattered pages generations before us touched and turned are replaced with swipes, in some manner is the human contact with the printed Word of God is lost?

As I said, I myself use the internet for Bible study just like so many of you, but nothing replaces my Bible. The pages marked up with notes, highlights and questions. When the enemy attacks my mind, it is not my phone I sleep with under my pillow but rather my Bible, whose cover is punctured with pen holes from the boys. When my emotions overwhelm me and the tears fall, it is not my iPad or Kindle or Nook I cling to my chest, but my well-worn Bible, with its curved binding and awkwardly folded pages.

As I look into my own heart for any level of contempt, I would ask you to do the same. Do you and I still revere the Word of God or is it just another instruction manual? Are we some familiar with it we no longer see the awe and the glory of the entire thing? Do we just minimize it, shove it in our cases and walk  away?

I am in no way saying one is better than the other, but I encourage you to get your hands on a real, pen and paper Bible this week.  Listen as you turn the pages. Run your fingers across the words. Hold it close to your chest (trust me…it is not the same as clinging to your phone). Pretend it is the first time you have laid eyes upon and hands to it.

Then you can go back to you electronic versions.

I will still be using my iPhone and Bible Gateway.

Father God, forgive me when I have taken Your Word for granted. Forgive me for the times I have treated it with indifference instead of the regard it deserves.  May our familiarity with the Word not breed contempt, but may it stir up in us the reassurance and hope You promise from beginning to end.

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Letters to My Family

mom's note

I’m making a list…I’m checking it twice…..

No…I’m not going to find out who’s been naughty or nice.  I am, however, going to make a commitment to the people on that list.

A commitment to pray for them in 2012.

My list has 34 names on it.  Some of them I see every day, once a week, once a year, or never.  It is a list of my family members (immediate and extended).    I’ve listed my husband, my children, my son-in-law, my father, my brothers, their families, my aunts, and my cousins.  My commitment to them is, not just to pray, but to write them a letter….a handwritten letter on stationary, mailed through the US Post Office, with a stamp, during the year.  If I write at least one letter a week, by the time the Christmas card season rolls around, I’ll be ready to send them all a card, too.  I’ve used a basic Excel spread sheet to make my list.  It will give me room to add addresses, birthdays, a check-off system, even a place to add gift ideas with their likes/dislikes.

Why would I write a letter to my husband or my children, you may be asking?  I see them every day, almost.  If I don’t see them, I at least text them daily or “facebook” them, especially the extended family.  My son asked me one day why had I certain messages locked on my cell-phone so that they couldn’t be erased, the messages from him and his sister where they had texted me that they loved me.  I told him that one day, he might not feel like texting me that message.  We might have a falling out, or he just might be mad at me for some unknown teenager’s reason.  I wanted to be able to look at those to remind myself that they did in fact love me, even if current actions weren’t showing it.

However, the main reason I am committing to write each family member this year comes from my journey from the previous year.  As many of you know, I lost my mother and my grandmother in 2011.  As we have been going through their estates and belongings, I have become the keeper of all things photographic or written.  I’ve spent the last year reading journals and looking through photo albums, and scanning pictures into my computer so that I could share them with the rest of my family.   Every picture, no matter how blurry or out of focus, of my mother, I scan.  I want to remember her every look and I’m doing that through the pictures.

In the midst of going through some of my things, I found the cards and notes that she had sent to me over the years.  I cherish those notes now.  I look at them over and over again and remember how much she loved me.    I understand that there are lots of people that never received such a note from their parents; they never felt genuine love from their parents, never even heard the words spoken.  My heart aches for them.

I want my family to know how much I loved and prayed for them.  When the day comes that I can’t speak the words myself, I want these letters to remind them….they were loved.

Also, for right now, I want them to know that I am praying specifically for them.  So many times we say “I’m praying for you” and then go on our way.  The person trusts that we did indeed stop and pray for them…but too often, we don’t.  We say it and then go on about our business, never giving that prayer another thought.  With this list, I am committing to stop and pray specifically for them.

How can I pray specifically for them, especially for those that I’m not in close contact with now?  First I will pray that they are growing spiritually (who doesn’t need that pray?!) and for their physical safety.  As I learn of more specific areas I can pray, I will add those.  I am hoping that this will open lines of communication that have been closed for too long.  I hope that they will contact me back and ask me to pray in for certain areas of their lives.  I’ll add those requests to the Excel spreadsheet as a constant reminder of their needs and a place to chronicle answered prayers as I hear of them.

For my immediate family, I’m going to be writing them on a regular basis, maybe sharing insights from Bible studies that I come across, ideas to help them in their spiritual journey, encouragement for dreams being dreamed.  For those still living in the house with me, I’ll leave the letters in places only they will find them (under their pillow, in their office, in their car).  For my extended family, I’m going to send them copies of some of the pictures I’ve scanned, maybe pictures of them that they never saw before or pictures of those grandparents that connected us together.

You know, this isn’t a new idea.   God did it.  He wrote letters to me and to you.

The Bible.

The signature is written in blood.

It’s to remind us that we are loved.  It’s to encourage us, help us in our spiritual journey.  It’s to remind us that we are being prayed over.

John 17:9, 15, 17, 24….I pray for them….that thou shouldest keep them from the evil…{that God would } sanctify them…{that they will }be with me where I am

Who’s on your list to pray for in 2012?

 

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Make Your Plans Now & Get a Free e-Book!

A Middle Eastern woman lying down reading

If you are like millions of others, you are in the midst of not only Christmas planning and decorating, but planning for the new year as well.  You’ve probably bought a calendar that will meet your specifications for planning the next 12 months.  You are winding down your filing system for the year and preparing for those dreaded taxes.

You might even be planning how to lose weight….next year…after the holidays!!

Something else that lots of people seem to do during this time of planning, is decide that “this year” they are going to read the Bible through in a year.  While out shopping for Christmas gifts, they look through the hundreds of books that can assist them in that endeavor.  And it is a worthy endeavor, but sadly, it usually only last about 6 weeks into the new year.

However, with smartphones, tablets, and readers, staying in the Word on a daily basis and reading through the Bible in a year is a bit easier than ever before.  But even with all the “apps for that”, it is going to take some effort on your part, some planning, and lots of dedication.

I’m in that planning stage myself and I’d like to share a few resources that I plan to use this new year to read through the Bible with a plan and to study topically.

George H. Guthrie has two books out this year.  One is a chronological daily Bible called Reading God’s Story.  It lays the reading out for 6 days and leaves the 7th day for reflection.  Like most plans, it starts with Genesis.  However the readings from the New Testament and other books of the Bible are in relation to the main passage.  For instance, day one starts with Genesis 1-2 and day 2 takes you to the book of John and Psalm 8 & 104.  Since this is a chronological reading, before the first month’s reading is out, you are reading in Job.

The second book that Guthrie released is used in conjunction with the first, Read the Bible for Life.  It goes into more detail of how to understand what you have been reading.  It talks about themes throughout the Bible and how to apply it to your personal life.

Along with the books, there are apps for your smartphone and a couple of websites.  ReadtheBibleforLife.com gives an overview of both books, videos, and links to the resources that have been developed for these titles, including information on how to get your church involved.  There is also access to podcasts to go along with the readings.

Another website that is helpful, not only having information on these books, but many more resources, is MyStudyBible.com.  This is a free website that offers some of these resources for free, but you can also purchase more.  Once you register, you can access it from any internet linked location and have your notes and library available with the push of a button.  Available to users are several full translations of the Bible, some commentaries, several dictionaries, and teaching tools.

Also available exclusively to A Martha Heart readers are 250 FREE ebook downloads of Read the Bible For Life!  B&H Publishing Group is allowing our readers to access an on-line version of this book once you register at mystudybible.com.  Simply go to msb.to/redeem and enter the code below.  Your unlimited access to this book will be added to your library on the site.  Thank you, B&H!  We have 250 redeemable slots….so go today and get your copy.

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 This reading plan and many more are also available at YourVersion.com.  It sends you email updates to remind you of your commitment.

This year, I’ve decided to study topically also.  My topic for the next 12 months is going to be Joy.  Thankfully, Angela Thomas just released a new 52-week daily devotional on that very subject.  I bought the ebook so that I could access it while at work for a quick devotion during my breaks.  I read it from my Amazon account in the cloud reader.  It’s a free option if you don’t have a Kindle reader.  If I read it using my Kindle for PC, I can highlight sections and add notes.

These are quick devotions 5 days, 52 weeks.  It’s not dated, so it can be started at anytime.  Each devotion has verses that relate to joy.  I’m looking forward to pursuing God’s joy this year.

So what are you planning on doing this new year, spiritually?  Have you bought a new Bible or journal, ready for fresh insights to be tracked?  Have you signed up for a study group?  Have you determined that you will spend more time with God and in His Word every day in the coming year?

Go ahead and open that empty new calendar and add your moments with Him.  Make appointments in ink, that can not be changed to meet with Him on a regular basis and just sit at His feet, listen to His voice, and grow in His strength.

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Truth and Love

Woman with Wreath of Flowers in Her Hands

I have always had many friends who come from a wide variety of denominational backgrounds. We may disagree on some small points, but on the major statements and tenants of our faith we are in agreement and that is enough for me.

However, in the past few years, I have found a disturbing trend among some of the new acquaintances I have made. I find people whose theology seems to be shaped more by men and women they listen to on Christian television or the internet, rather than their own thoughtful reading of Scripture or the teachings of their church. They don’t seem to have a firm grasp of basic doctrine, but have passed through some kind of theological buffet of beliefs drawn by what appeals to them. They seem to have no idea how to evaluate if what they are being taught is in fact sound. They don’t know if the Scripture has been taken out of context or if the emPHAsis is on the wrong sylLABLE leading to distortion.

 Just as disturbing, and maybe in reaction to those who are undiscerning, are the people I have met who approach others with an air of suspicion. They seem to be on heretic patrol and are on high alert until they figure out if you are doctrinally acceptable. For example: In a casual conversation I described our excellent Vacation Bible School curriculum with a woman who was a fairly new acquaintance. It was a very creative and biblically sound program. The children learned so much about what Jesus’ life would have been like as a child. His humanity and His deity were emphasized; the good news of the gospel was clearly explained. I found myself backed against a verbal wall and being frisked from top to bottom. It was a very unpleasant experience as was her final judgment that the curriculum, “went beyond what is written in the Bible.”

So what is my point and what solutions can be offered?

 Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Jude wanted to write about their shared salvation, but he was sensing the necessity to appeal to his brothers and sisters to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to them. How do we guard against both extremes that I have described?

For those who don’t know how to evaluate teachings that they hear I would suggest the obvious. Read through the word of God and get the big picture. For those of you who are in the throes of motherhood, work long hours, or have never had any success reading through the Bible, you may consider reading the primary foundational books of the Old Testament. Reading these eleven books will give you the basic story and timeline. They are:

Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1st Samuel, 2nd Samuel, 1st Kings, 2nd Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

There are many helpful New Testament reading plans. I even found a plan titled the Bible Reading Plan for  Shirkers and Slackers. I love the good humored title and it looks like a great plan.  http://www.ransomfellowship.org/publications/notes_biblereadingprogram.pdf.

I am currently reading through the New Testament in 100 days. In truth, because life happens, it will probably take me 125 days. If you fall behind don’t get discouraged and quit. Don’t allow condemnation to overtake you. Make it a priority and ask the Lord to help you.

Learn the basics of sound Bible study skills. I am forever indebted to Kay Arthur for teaching me how to study the Bible inductively through developing skills of observation, interpretation, and application. On YouTube you can listen to John MacArthur in a two part series on how to study the Bible. Remember the goal is to know and love the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

The apostle Paul gave us a warning that knowledge in and of itself can lead to arrogance, but love will seek to edify, and to build up, 1 Corinthians 8:1. If correction is necessary and sometimes it is, then let us walk in love, speak the truth in love, and not act like lawyers for the prosecution. We are to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind and our neighbor as ourselves. Let’s keep our heart and mind engaged in learning and sharing His precepts. We can and should earnestly contend for the faith, and we can do it without becoming contentious or mean spirited.

 Lord, teach us good discernment and knowledge, for we believe in Your commandments. Psalm 119:66

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The Care and Feeding of High Maintenance Friends

Field of Sunflowers

A few weeks ago, I got a phone message from an acquaintance with a question about real estate. Fair enough, I am a real estate agent, after all. However, I was not in a location where I had access to a computer or the internet. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to her with an answer to her question until the next day. Also, I really wasn’t able to return her call right away to tell her, which I would normally do out of courtesy for anyone who left me a message with a question that would require me some time to get back to them.

However, this nagging voice in the back of my mind kept telling me, “You’d better call her back sooner than later. You know she’ll get her feelings hurt if you don’t call her. She’ll think you’re mad at her and then she’ll get mad at you and think that you’ve been avoiding her.”

The entire situation frustrated me and got me thinking, “Why can’t this person ever extend grace and just give people the benefit of the doubt? Why does she take things so personally? Does she really want me calling her because I’m afraid she’ll be hurt and get mad if I wait until tomorrow? Wouldn’t she rather me call because I WANT to, not because I feel like I HAVE to? Why is she so sensitive and high maintenance?

I’m sure we all can think of someone we know who is over-sensitive. We walk on egg shells around them because we never know when something we say innocently is going to cause a problem. They seem to have a vortex of drama constantly swirling around them and if we’re not careful, we get sucked in before we know it. Perhaps she is a friend or relative.

Or perhaps that person is the one we see when we look in the mirror. Ouch!

I believe there are several reasons a person might be high maintenance. One might be insecurity or low self-esteem. They need to get their validation from others, so when a phone call is returned “too late” or someone pokes a little fun, they internalize it and feel rejection, rather than consider the other possibilities of why a phone call may not be returned right away or laugh at something that might really be funny, not hurtful.

Another possibility is self-centeredness. Perhaps they feel that the world really should revolve around them. When they say jump, the rest of us better respond with how high? They don’t take into consideration the fact that someone else might be having a bad day, or previous plans that kept them from jumping at that moment.

Closely tied with self-centeredness may be control issues. They like to control their world and when others don’t cooperate with their plan, someone is going to pay.

I have to admit, when I was younger, I was much more sensitive than I am now.  My poor husband can vouch for that! The main thing that helped me “get over myself” was God’s Word and what He had to say about what He thinks of me.

So what do we do when we find ourselves feeling slighted, hurt, and insecure more often than we’d care to?

John Maxwell says, “When we are 20, we worry all the time what people think of us; when we are 40, we don’t care what people think of us; and when we are 60, we realize that people don’t really think of us that much anyway.”

I think he hit the nail on the head. We need to stop worrying what other people think of us and focus on the only One who can and should define us – Jesus.

So what does Jesus think about us?

He loves us. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” Eph. 3:17b-19a

Nothing can make Him love us less. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  Romans 8:38-40

He saves us. ”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”. John 3:16

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”. Romans 10:9-10

I could go on and on about all Jesus has done for us and how much He loves us. I challenge you to search out verses on your own and study and ask God to impress on your heart how much you are loved.

When we begin to grasp the love of Christ for us and realize that He is enough, what other people think of us suddenly becomes much less important. Yes, people can and will still hurt our feelings, but it’s easier to just let the petty things go when we understand that the Creator of the universe is madly in love with us.

So what do we do with the high maintenance people in our lives?

Again, the answer is love.

Proverbs 19:22 says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.”

Not too long after I received the phone call from my acquaintance, I got the opportunity to spend some time with her. It was the first time in a long time that I got to catch up with her and find out about what’s going on in her life. I got to encourage her and understand her better and I felt convicted for my initial frustration at my perceptions of her demands on me. Once I got the chance to “love on her” a bit, I realized that even though she still had “high maintenance” tendencies, she wasn’t trying to control me. What she really wanted was to know that she was loved.

Which is all any of us really wants.

While we can’t be all things to all people, we can be “Jesus with skin on” to those around us, showing His love and pointing others to the One whose love makes all the difference.

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Instructions

porch enclosed

Hello friend!  Pull up a chair, we have so much to catch up on. Would you like a cherry lemonade slush? Amy’s recipe is the best.  We added some ginger ale for fizziness. Mmmm, refreshing!  Especially after the heat we have experienced this summer, hasn’t it been hot?

Can you believe school starts in just 23 days? No, I haven’t gotten school supplies, yet. My Chris was telling me the other day that the average family spends over $600 per child for back to school.  Can you believe that? Yeah, we pull that average way down for sure.

This summer, we have had so many plans to go new places and create new things–like Grand Canyon, a back deck and Kylie’s backpack.

Yes, the material is cut and ready to be sewn.  All the pieces are placed on the dining room table.  And the instructions? …laying there, making about 20% sense to me. I am hoping Chris can decipher them and help us.  I think engineers like to read instructions. Me, now? I would rather look at it and figure it out–and hope it works out. My way doesn’t always turn out so well.

Don’t you wish life came with instructions? Oh, yeah, I know…the Bible is our instruction manual and all.  But I guess the place I struggle with most is how to apply the crazy life and find the appropriate instruction IN the Bible for such life. I also was never very good at the matching tests of questions and answers. Sometimes, I feel like closing my eyes and picking at random.

My good-ness it has been a year I have been fully unprepared for, my friend.  What do you do when…

your dear friend has a major stroke?

the jobs you hoped for didn’t come through, but there are still bills to pay?

your health takes a turn for the worse and you realize you need to get to the bottom of it before you have a major incident?

your summer plans take a sudden u-turn and get cancelled?

you get hurt, feel rejected, forgotten and thrown away like so much manure?

Yes, I guess you are right, manure does help things to grow. So spread it around, huh? Yes, that is what I’ve been doing. Taking the fertilizer that has been my life and spreading it around, asking Jesus to make good things grow from it.

You know, you’re right, I have much to be thankful for…family, friends, life. And I am.  I am thankful.  Thankful is what makes me get out of bed every morning.  As my friend, recovering from her major stroke said the other day, “Sometimes the hardest decision every day is just getting up.” She’s right, you know.

As for instructions, I am thankful for the Engineer that is the Holy Spirit, who not only reads my heart but can apply His apt Word to it. Sometimes the solutions don’t seem to add up or make sense, not now anyway. But someday, they will. There is no reason to try and explain it all away and tie it up in a neat package with a bow.

Sometimes people forget your phone number, your birthday and hate your very life. Sometimes people fail to tell you the whole story and you meet with them over coffee and you try to prayerfully play the matching game–without all the choices and details–and you lose a friendship. Sometimes every single thing that seems like it oughta work out and save the day, it doesn’t. Sometimes a baby dies before she even has a chance to be born. Sometimes we experience the loss of abilities that we used to have and wonder what life will be like now. Sometimes it seems like those who said they’d be there, aren’t. It’s just plain disappointing and painful.

Where are the instructions for those kind of things? I feel, once again, like as I read my Bible, I can decipher only about 20% when it comes to all this heavy life. I need the interpreter and the engineer…

Oh, it is worth it though. Sometimes, I have seen God work in a way that never would work in everyday life. He takes His extraordinary measures and applies them to my ordinary. Sometimes, we do the hard work and actually take back some ground that was stolen. Sometimes, we are given the gift of one very good friend, who understands you. Oh, and if there are TWO? Well now, that is a blessing. Sometimes, being silent and making something beautiful is like a salve to the wounds. Sometimes, pouring it all out in angry speech to God just clears the air.  He knows anyway. Might as well just pour it all forth…get it out on the table, like the pieces of material for Kylie’s backpack.

Then we read through the instructions with the Engineer and He shows us the way to piece it all together. He is very good at showing us a piece at a time. And He’s all about making things new, making a way in the desert, giving hope to the hopeless.

Yes. Sometimes the hardest thing we do is get up every day. But we do. And we learn to love. We choose to show up. We choose to get in the yoke with Jesus. We learn how He works. It’s about as refreshing as this lemonade. I find that it makes me glad. Glad of heart and glad of soul.

Oh friend, thank you for stopping by today. Thank you for listening. Sometimes…well, you know, sometimes…sometimes we’ve gotta know we aren’t alone. I am glad to know you are here. God has bound our hearts together. For that, I am glad.

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Buying Up the Season

MP900447497

No matter who you are or what defines you or whatever is your estate, you are in a season. You have come from a season and you are going to a season. Be it the President of the United States to the needy, hungry and homeless one on the street, there is no differential–each person is in a season. I would call that common ground. Wouldn’t you?

It’s in the common ground things of life that God’s Word speaks and is illumined. He inspired it to be so.  His Word touches whomever will listen to it and simply be willing to be impacted by the light of Christ.  I’ve heard some say that His Word means nothing to them and He means nothing to them.  Even this one, this lost sheep, is in a season.

Seasons define us, mark us, change us, fill us, empty us. Seasons are the circumstances of the day–the weather and events and characters that set the current stage of our lives. Some seasons are like a day at the beach–warm, salty wind blowing in our face, sounds of waves crashing and children playing, a plethora of joy, contentment and happiness. Some seasons are like a lonely walk in the desert–hot sand on our blistered feet, sounds of the wind and nothing else, an empty and lonely place that chills our hearts at night.

It is with these thoughts and this spirit that I came upon this verse two days before we filed for bankruptcy in March 2009. It had been a hard season, ending in a tragic failure for us.  This verse spoke to my heart, for it was as if I were the one needing to be awoken from a very, bad dream…

Therefore He says, ‘Awake O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light.  Look carefully then how you walk!  Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people) making the most of the time (buying up opportunity), because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:14-16 Amplified

So as I meditate once again on this verse and look back over what for me was the last season of my life and not the present one, I am beginning to pull out the meaning of the phrases from the original language.  I want to see if there are any treasures to be had and of course there are!

Beginning with the first word, Therefore, we know that these are verses that point back to the verses before them. You can read the whole chapter in its entirety here (Ephesians 5 Amplified). Basically the passage is talking about how we walk through our life, what we should choose and what we should not choose.

Then it says it is shameful to even mention what some people in the darkness practice in secret. We, by our own behavior, shine a light on them to expose, reprove and convict them. When deeds are exposed and rendered apparent and shown manifestly by the light, they are known.

So picture this…you are in a dark cave without any glimpse of light to be seen.  Your mind is completely confused.  You cannot move from the spot in which you sit, as you shiver in fear.  Not knowing if you are awake or asleep, you have frightening thoughts and in every way you are confused.  There is nothing you can do about your estate. For you are stuck.  There is not one thing you can do to make a change in your circumstances.  For even crying out for help is too cognizant a thought to form into words in such a muddled mind-set.

Then Jesus comes and shines His light upon you, illuminating your darkness.  Not only that, but He speaks to you!  He bids you to waken and rouse from the place you have gone to lie down and sleep. He says, as he once said to Lazarus, “Rise again!  Stand up, you corpse, you dead one, and see!  Behold and perceive.  It is your choice. Then walk around, live, and follow Me as your Companion.  Let us take the most exact and straight path.  You must tread down underfoot this place from which you are walking. Let me set you free.”

He continues to speak, “Walk not as the conceited one, the unclear fool. No!  Walk thoughtfully, discreetly, wisely with skill. For you must ransom, rescue from loss and buy up this appointed season. It is time! From dawn to dusk, you must live redeeming this time, knowing and being aware of the wicked, degenerate, hurtful age in which you live. I am with you, equipping you to live wisely. Shining My light in your darkness. Now walk and illumine the path for others. Tell them I am the light.”

I remember the night, Jesus did this for me.  It was a dark night, alone in dorm room. My choices had led me down the wrong path.  I was in the darkest day of my life. Though I did not know it, as I bowed face down on the floor and coherent of nothing save my pain and sorrow, Jesus shone His light upon me.  He illumined my path.  He taught me a better way.  He showed me a better way to circumspectly walk about every gentle day.

Does that mean I have not needed His light since?  Oh, now that is far from reality.  Reality is that I need my Companion’s (Jesus’) light every moment of every day. Sometimes, I have not chosen to walk in that light. Did He walk away from me or abandon me?  No.  He waited and shed His light abroad on the path, so that I would know how to find my way back to Him. And the important part? It was and is my choice. Daily.

And dear friend?  It is your choice. Daily.

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Take Time to Take Stock

diagram one

14 years ago tomorrow changed my life and my heart forever. It was the National Day of Prayer, and I determined that I was going to learn how to fast and pray–read a book on fasting by Bill Bright and began my very first prayer fast. Specifically I was praying for a child. We had been told we would be unable to have children. You can read more of that story here. It was truly a miracle! Four children (all miracles!) and fourteen years later, I have been noticing that my priorities of heart have not really changed, but my actions are not reflecting my heart. So I am shifting my actions to line up with my heart.

Perhaps you find yourself in the same position–it is time to take stock and see how things are lining up. This is a chart I wrote for myself at the beginning of the year in my journal. I was looking at it this week and began to think you might benefit from it, too.  So I added some very elementary artwork to illustrate the points.

This verse is key to my ultimate goal, “Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 The Message

When you need to take stock of what and where and why and how, many questions must follow. For answers, it will require that you stop and consider each question carefully and prayerfully. A great companion to this chart below and for a deeper level of understanding is the Bible study called The Intentional Woman by Joan Webb and Carol Travilla.  It is a great way to assess where you are and give you tools to be more intentional in your day-in, day-out life.

Feel free to print this up, so you can consider where you are and how your priorities are lining up.

TAKE STOCK

What am I doing?

  • What am I doing?

What are my goals?

  • What are my goals?

Does one align with the other?

  • Does one align with the other?

Who am I impacting?

  • Who am I impacting?

Are my priorities reflecting the impact I want to have?

  • Are my priorities reflecting the impact I want to have?

What changes do I need to implement in my priorities to bring about a higher impact?

  • What changes do I need to implement in my priorities to bring about a higher impact?

Where am I residing?

  • Where am I residing?

Does it reflect my heart for the ones I impact?

  • Does it reflect my heart for the ones I impact?

How can I shift my priorities and goals to de-clutter and improve my "home?"

  • How can I shift my priorities and goals to de-clutter and improve my “home?”

When am I stopping to take stock of my goals, priorities, home, impact and heart?

  • When am I stopping to take stock of my goals, priorities, home, impact and heart?

Why do I feel stressed, worried, harried, inadequate, tired, insecure and out of control?

  • Why do I feel stressed, worried, harried, inadequate, tired, insecure and out of control?

What do the answers in the above questions reflect about my life?

  • What do the answers in the above questions reflect about my life?

How does God want me to respond?

  • How does God want me to respond?

 

For clarification, I will add a non-exhaustive list of personal notes and answers here–some are just examples, not personal:

1. What am I doing?

  • help-meet to my Chris,
  • caring for/ nurturing our children–watchful of their hearts, time, schedules, and activity,
  • tending to our home–cleaning, cooking, orderly, filling the needs and gaps, yard work, making it welcoming and fun,
  • web design,
  • A Martha Heart,
  • other computer related activity–emails, scheduling, other work,
  • interaction with friends, prayer and encouragement,
  • exercise,
  • and much more

2. What are my goals?

  • To lighten Chris’ load, so he can be the best at what he does–to connect with him, continue building relationship, love and friendship with him. To laugh with him daily. To hear him. To pray for him. To brighten his day and be the highlight of his day, so that coming home is a good thing.
  • To pour into our children life and joy, to equip them and teach them, to help build moral character into them, to tend to their needs. to delight them and make them laugh, to help them grow in the vein of things they enjoy and are pursuing, to pray for them and love them. To hug them often and smile more than I frown.
  • To help our family in whatever way we need–financially, scheduling, planning–keeping my hand on the pulse of our home
  • To make our home welcoming and inviting to friends and family
  • To grow personally in pursuing Christ
  • To improve my health and the health of my family
  • so much more, you get the idea

3. For checking alignment, I look at my goals and see how they fit with what I am actually doing–not what I say I am going to do. I can say I am going to exercise all I want, even pay for a membership at the YMCA and buy healthy groceries, but if I do not prepare healthy foods and actually go to the YMCA and exercise, my goal of improving my health is not aligned. It is what I actually am doing that must line up…and if not, I make action steps.  Tomorrow, I am going to make taco salad for supper and exercise for one hour at the YMCA. Then I follow through on those steps.

4. Who am I impacting? My husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, my connections in my communities (locally and on the Internet) and even strangers!

5. My priorities are what I do FIRST, then SECOND and so on.  These are the daily things I choose.  If what I choose is junk food and facebook all day long,then my priorities will not bring about my desired goals. A priority is what I do…not what I hope to do or plan to do.  It is what I DO.

6. Look at the signs… (these are just examples, not really my answers)

  • Wrong Way–It is fine to waste 5 minutes finding out when Katherine Hepburn died, but then researching all the bunny trails from that point and being there for an hour is too much!
  • Yield–The Holy Spirit in me, as a sealed believer in Christ, will remind me of where I need to slow down and yield to his promptings…whether it is the food I consume, the books or movies I read or the relationships in my life that do not benefit me or them and so on.
  • Stop–Clear sign–this pie will still be here, I do not need to eat the whole thing.
  • U-turn–I have gone too far in playing games on my phone.  I am spending three hours a day on them.  I need to limit my time here.  20 minutes total in the morning, noon and night are enough.
  • Danger–This relationship with a friend/ family member is becoming co-dependent, I need to ask the Lord how to proceed with caution and slowly back away, while respecting the person and making good, firm boundaries.
  • Slow, curves ahead–Treacherous cliffs are all around, I need to slow down here and see why my child is lying to me on a continual basis and why their homework is not getting finished.

7. Where am I residing?  Where do I spend my time each day–in the car, at home, on the computer, at my desk, with friends, etc…where and how am I spending time?

8. If the places I reside and how I spend the time do not reflect the goals I have for me and the ones I impact, then I need to begin to say NO–even to good things–to say YES to the best things.

9. Steps toward my goals might include giving up some things I like (even like a lot–like satellite TV) for invested things I love and want to enjoy–a trip camping this summer with our kids.

10. I try to take stock every week or so.

11., 12. and 13.) These are questions for me personally.  They basically are my actions steps and perhaps even my non-action steps.  What needs to start and what needs to stop? They are a gauge of where I am and where I want to be…between are the steps to action and the actual carrying out of each one. I prayerfully consider them.  I memorize scriptures–apply the Truth of God’s Word, like the one above, that reflect my goals and my struggles in reaching the goals I have set (sometimes, God’s Word causes and prompts me to change my goals). Then I stop and ask and answer the questions above again–adjusting as necessary.

I pray this helps you, dear friends–it is prepared with love.

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Start Now…

bible coffee

Dear Rhonda,

You are growing up a good church going kid. That is a fine thing, so don’t let that label bother you. It will spare you more heartache than you know. However, you are going to need more. You need the Word of God. You think you know it. You don’t. You know a few key verses. You know the stories, but, right now, you don’t know it. You are not aware of the life it brings. You are not aware of the changing power those printed words carry. You have no idea how soon you will cling to them for you own sanity. If I could tell you one thing to change, it would be your study of the Word of God. Dig in deep sister.

Start you scripture memorization now, and don’t wait until your mid-thirties. Jump head first into godly, biblical studies. Search out those who bring the truth of God’s word. Do not take it for face value because it comes from the pulpit. Open up that red, leather bound King James Version you have and read it for yourself. Do not rely on others to educate you about the Word. They can assist, but the responsibility is yours. Find a reading plan and start everyday you can reading the Word. Ask the Lord to make it fall fresh on your hard heart. It is the only thing that will soften it. Firmly root passages in your mind so that you are quick on the offensive when the enemy comes. And believe, dear one, he is coming. He is after you with all he has.

Your mind, like so many others, will be a repeated battle field. Armor up missy. You get in those pages. You put those words to use. You read them, study them, and use them to fight for your relationship with the One who inspired them. It is not going to matter what church you attend, what pastoral staff you know, or how much you serve, when the attacks come, when your faith is tested, when your very core is attacked, and it will be, it will come down to you and Jesus. You and what you have hidden in your heart about Him. You and what you have securely planted in your mind about God, our Father, and His love toward you.

The confidence you have in Him will only come from knowing Him, and that will come from studying His word. It is life to you, baby. It is life for you, for your marriage. For your boys to come.

As I sit here writing to you I can hardly see through my tears. I cannot express to you how much the Word of God is going to mean to you. How you will defend its integrity to the bitter end and how you will hold fast to it. Start now baby. Start now. You are not too young for this. You are not too messed up. You are not too good. You need those words. You need the Word. You need to know them. You need Him.

He will meet you on those printed pages. He will meet you in a single word. He will save you. He will change you. He will love you. He will set you free.

Open that book and let Him.

John 1:14 (New King James Version)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

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