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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Take Time to Take Stock

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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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Our Home: God’s Territory

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Our home is God’s territory.  And we are marking it as such.

We have been in the throes of an entire kitchen remodel in our home.   I mean a rip everything out and take it down to the studs gut and remodel. 

Part of the demolition process of this remodel included chipping up 450 square feet of ceramic tile.  And if you don’t know anything about chipping up tile, it was quite the messy project.  However, when it was all said and done and we were about to have the new tile installed, I realized I had a great opportunity.

We have been involved in several construction projects both at church and at our kids’ school where we have written various things on the building’s foundation before the finishes were put in.  I realized that we had an opportunity to do the same thing.

So the night before the new tile was to be installed, we gathered on the bare concrete floor of our gutted kitchen and the four of us each wrote a scripture on the foundation of our house. 

You see, a while back I read a book* that has really challenged me to go further and do more in terms of parenting my children and teaching them our faith.  One chapter, in particular, talks of marking the home as God’s territory.  

Now, that idea can be taken symbolically.  Or it can also be taken literally.  I have felt the need to take it literally.  At least in some ways.

In Deuteronomy 6, as Moses is conveying to the Israelite people the commandments of the Lord, he finishes off the first section in verse 9: “Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” 

In that day and time, I imagine their floors were pretty much just dirt.  So for some reason I am picturing the door frames being one of the stronger “foundational” parts of the house.  And I picture the gate being a thing of protection.  So, to put it in the New Donna Version, “Make my Word and commandments visible in your home.  Make it the foundation of your home.  Allow it to protect your home. “

Now, I’m not saying that there is something mystically protective about some words written somewhere or hanging on a wall. What I am saying is that there is power in recognizing that your home is God’s territory and doing intentional things that remind your family and anyone who walks into your home of that fact.

We can accomplish this in a variety of multi-sensory ways.  In other words, engage all the senses. By doing so, you will create triggers to memories of you home when your children are older that will remind them of the faith that they were taught in your home.

Sight:  Have artwork that reflects God, Christ and His Word.

Hearing:  Provide Christian music and a stereo in your children’s rooms and have it playing in the house.  And if I might put in a plug for some of the older hymns of our faith here…  There are treasures of theology in many of those hymns that need to be passed to the next generations.

Taste and Smell:  Make your meal times a time of gathering as a family to build one another up and even discuss things of your faith.  Make certain meals a tradition around certain religious holidays or gatherings.  For instance, we always have lamb at Easter in our house.

Touch:  Encourage your family to do “faith.” If your children take music lessons, they should learn to play some Christian songs.  If they like to paint or sculpt, encourage them periodically to make something Christian in nature for an art show. If you sew, then sew something for the needy or for a mission project.  The bottom line here is to get their hands involved in something faith related.

You know, we all have triggers that bring back memories.  If I have a roast cooking at home, that smell and taste can take me back to Sunday lunch during my childhood like nothing else.  Roast on Sunday was a given in our home.  Of course, so was hand-washing the dishes afterward.  So, maybe not all the memories are pleasant.  But in my rebellious late teen and early adult years, just the thought of roast, potatoes and carrots with gravy (oh yes, you must have gravy) would remind me of lunch around the kitchen table after Sunday morning at church. 

Certainly it was the Holy Spirit that drew me back to himself during those rebellious years, but the memories that I have of growing up in a Christian home couldn’t have hurt one bit.  And as a parent, I feel a responsibility to do anything and everything I can to give my children the opportunity to remember things that draw them toward their faith. 

So as we wrote out verses of scripture on the foundation of our home, we engaged the senses of touch and sight as we demonstrated to ourselves and our children that Christ and the Word of God are the foundation of our home.  And I gave myself and hopefully the rest of my family a memory trigger of that fact each time we walk through our kitchen and over those scriptures each day.

Engage the senses. Create triggers for memories. And mark your home as God’s territory.

And just in case you were wondering, the scripture that I chose to write on the floor was John 6:35, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

*Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham Jr.

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Heart Prompt #15

Choose a scripture you would like to memorize. It can be as short as a sentence or two, or as long as a paragraph or more. The length of the passage is not important; what is important is that the verse you choose speaks to you directly. Then write your verse on several 4×6 index cards, and put them in places where you will see them often throughout the day (your bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, the inside of a kitchen cupboard door, etc., etc.). The first time you encounter one of your index cards, read it out loud ~ from that point, every time you see an index card, try to recite it from memory bit by bit, until you’ve worked your way through the verse and have memorized it.

“ ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ” Jeremiah 31:33 NIV

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Heart Prompt #10

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Today clean out your closet and spend time making a pile of throw away, give away and keep (put away).

Clean out those things you keep thinking you will wear and share with those in need. This, by Melanie, will help inspire you: http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/womenallaccess/2010/10/cleaning_out_the_closet.html

While in your closet, ponder this verse:

“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ ” Isaiah 40:9 NIV

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Wreck My Life

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Recently, our worship leader prayed these words, “Lord, wreck our lives with Your Love.” And those words struck me at the core. Do I really want to ask God to wreck my life??

I’ve never been much of a daredevil, though I have chosen daring paths before and even was glad about it. But for the most part I really like safe and planned. You can ask my Chris, I am not much for off-roads here in Colorado, though he truly enjoys them so much. If we are in a precarious place, I get edgy and frightened–and it truly makes my Chris mad at me. For he wants me to trust him. He’s an excellent and skilled driver. I know it. But my actions do not follow through–I do not act like I trust him.

It’s much the same way with my relationship with the Lord. I know Him. I know He is FOR me. I know that He is WITH me. I know that He is ABLE to deliver me from, through and in the fire. But often my actions do not show trust in Him. I’m always looking for the safety net, when He IS the safety net. Like with my Chris, I’m sure it frustrates and disappoints God. For He has shown Himself in my life. He has been faithful and is faithful. He has proven to me that He is trustworthy.

So I think, “Lord, wreck my life with Your love? What exactly does that mean?”

It means that I take my perfect plan of a life and home and I submit it to His perfect plan–that may look altogether different from my own.

It means that the women I most look up to in the faith–Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie ten Boom–became women who ran hard after God, even when His plans, His journey for them, looked altogether different than what they hoped. If I want to live life like them, I need to fully trust that God has BEST in mind when difficult life happens.

That does not mean that I have to be a martyr–or that I’ll lose my husband or family. It may just mean that the difficult things I have faced, like bankruptcy, loss of family and friends, and job loss, will shape my life into something beautiful–if I will let God shape it and trust Him.

It may mean that the things I let define me will no longer define me or shape my future. So this may create a new normal in my life, which is a difficult path to walk.

To fully know God and fully trust Him to wreck my life with His love, I have to surrender to Him. I must continue praying to surrender to God’s plans and be filled fully with His spirit, which is a battle cry to the enemy our our souls. I have faced the roughest two weeks I have ever had; yet, I feel the wind of God’s breath on my face. And I can see some break-throughs in areas I have been praying to see the walls come down.

This topic is not finished, for I am certain that Casey’s prayer might have just changed my life. For I want God to wreck my life with His love. I am so tired of safe living, people pleasing and letting others define me. God is the shaper of my life–and He is the Holy One.

Let this picture bore into your mind of who this Holy One is…Psalm 18:6-19 (The Message)

“A hostile world! I call to God,
I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
my cry brings me right into his presence—
a private audience!

Earth wobbles and lurches;
huge mountains shake like leaves,
Quake like aspen leaves
because of his rage.
His nostrils flare, bellowing smoke;
his mouth spits fire.
Tongues of fire dart in and out;
he lowers the sky.
He steps down;
under his feet an abyss opens up.
He’s riding a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then God thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
let loose your hurricane anger.

But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! “

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