Happy Thanksgiving!

Or is it?  Most of us in the US will be getting up early to cook a turkey and pull together the meal of the year.  Family may be coming over and this is a test to see how well you can handle the stress.  There are some of us that love this kind of thing, doing all the work, watching family enjoy the meal, seeing some of the family that you haven’t seen in a while.  And then there are the rest of us….

Yes, I’m one that hates the stress and bother of having a ton of people at my house.  Let me give you some background on this:  My mother was one of the above described people.  She loved nothing more than fixing a ton of food and seeing 20 to 50 or more people descend on our home and enjoy themselves.  She actually catered my wedding reception for over 200 people without blinking an eye.  I grew up underneath this shadow.  Of course, while growing up I helped my mom do all this.  Thanksgivings, Christmas, she even had an open house on New Year’s Day every year.

Thankful HeartsFast forward about 15 years.  My mom is in a nursing home; suffering from multiple strokes and seizures.  It’s November and my dad calls to ask what I’m going to do for Thanksgiving.  Well, gee.  I’m backed into a corner and tell him I guess I’ll fix up a dinner.  Then it’s the transportation issue for my mom.  She’s in a wheelchair and unable to walk.  Lucky me that I’m working for an agency that transports handicapped individuals and have access and training to get my mom and transport her to my house (with permission, of course).  My brother abstains from driving an hour to come, so it’s just my parents and my family.

I wanted the day to go perfectly because this was probably my mom’s last Thanksgiving (it was).  Coordinating cooking with transport wasn’t easy.  Taking care of mom’s needs and handling it all was harder.  So, in the middle of all this…  I drop the turkey!  ON THE FLOOR.  I almost had a nervous breakdown.

The day didn’t get better after that; in fact, it went downhill.  Dinner was delayed while we cleaned up the mess (have you ever cleaned up the mess a dropped turkey makes?  Yuck!)  Mom started having seizures and didn’t stop.  I had to abandon it all to take her back to the nursing home.  The day, in my eyes, was a complete failure.

I let that day color the rest of the time I had with my mom.  I didn’t do everything with the grace and poise that she always had.  I didn’t meet the standards that she had set when I was younger.  I wasn’t good enough.

Since then, with God’s grace, I have a different outlook on the whole Thanksgiving holiday.  Looking back, I would have rather spent time with my mom and dad and family and maybe fixed a simple dinner.  I’ve learned since that time that you don’t have to have turkey.  We’ve had spaghetti, lasagna and mac and cheese in these past years.  We’ve invited people to join us at our simple family meals so they won’t be alone.  Yes, we still have turkey on occasion, but only if we feel like doing the whole deal.  Otherwise, it’s just dinner.

Be thankful and cherish what you have right now because you may not have it tomorrow.  Relax and love your family around you; they won’t be here forever.  Try not to get wrapped  up in the preparations of the meal.  If problems come up, and you know they will, take it “with a grain of salt” and continue on.  The world won’t come to an end. And remember to Thank the Lord always for this day and the other 365 days after it.

 

Admonition

The origin of admonition is from the Latin word admonitio, which means (cautionary) reminder. Further the word Admonish means: to warn or reprimand someone firmly.
Why do I bring this up? Because a couple of the many ‘one another’ verses tells us to do just that. Admonish one another. Romans 15:14 and Colossians 3:16.
Still this word seems harsh to our modern ears. No one likes to be reprimanded, it feels like an insult to our ‘be true to yourself’ culture. We want the freedom to indulge in our vices and pleasures of this world. Much like a brooding teenager, we bristle at anyone who might dare tell us a thing is not good to do. And often an attempt to warn someone else (these days) will end in an argument or a one sided verbal lashing.
Why then do we read in Romans 15:14
“And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
How can we be ‘full of goodness’ and reprimand someone? Isn’t that just people wielding whatever power they might have over someone else? Like a boss or parent wagging their finger at us?  But why shouldn’t we want and welcome constructive criticism? Don’t we need to know our weakness if we are to improve, learn and grow? It appears we can’t have it both ways. If one doesn’t want to be admonished then they have that right; but they will then find themselves in a rut. No longer seeing what it is that may be keeping them from personal growth. Similarly if you accept admonition, you must also accept that a change in habit (or complete halt in activity) must take place.
As is said in Proverbs 9:8 “Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.”
Why? Because a wise man knows rebuke equals improvement. They also know that improvement makes us feel better. There is a huge difference between pleasure, and happiness. Everyone is capable of indulging  in some sort of pleasure, but pure, content, happiness eludes many.

Who’s Got Your Back?

Robin“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27

I’ve worked at some places that had “Team Building” exercises.  I hated one that came out (and I don’t know if they still do this), but you had to stand with your back to two or four people and just fall backwards and trust that they would catch you.  I never trusted the people behind me to catch me.  I couldn’t do this exercise.

But in my life I’ve learned to trust the Lord.  Now I figure trusting is just about the same as having faith.  They go hand in hand.  I looked up the differences between trust and faith, and there are differences.  According to http://www.differencebetween.com (yes, that’s a real website!) faith is used in the sense of ‘belief’ or ‘devotion’ and the word trust is used in the sense of ‘confidence’ and ‘reliance’.  Hummm, do you trust in your faith?  Or put another way, do you have confidence in your faith that the Lord will take care of you?

While I was the caregiver for my husband I found that I didn’t have confidence in my faith.  Why did my husband get sick?  Why did this happen?  I was terrified of being a single mom of two teen-aged sons without out a penny to put towards a funeral for my husband if he died.  Life just wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  But it did.

I read Matthew 6:25-27 and this verse held a whole new meaning for me.  I had faith in the Lord, but did I have the confidence that He would take care of my life?  At that time, the answer was no.  So I started to try to build my confidence in my faith.  The Lord helped by opening up my eyes and showing me all the little things in my life that He was taking care of.  As  my husband got worse, He brought people into our lives to show us that help was out there and they pointed me in the right direction.  We had in home aides so I could work and a chair lift so my husband could go up and down the steps.  These helps didn’t cost us a penny, but they were priceless.  As a result, my confidence got stronger.  Today, I know the Lord is looking out for me and has a plan.  I just have to listen to Him.

So, if you feel your confidence flagging, remember, God’s got this!!  He has your back.

Waiting…

isaiah 40-31Are you tired of waiting?  It seems like we pray and nothing happens.  We think the Lord isn’t paying any attention to us and whatever we’re going through is just dragging along.  We can’t do anything ourselves, but we pray and ask the Lord to do something, anything.  Please, just get us out of this place where we are so…  stuck.

Oh, yes.  I’ve been in this place for quite awhile.  I was stuck while I was taking care of my terminally ill husband.  I prayed for change because I was unhappy with the place that the Lord had me.  I had nursing aides during the day so I could work and then I came home and took care of my husband until bedtime.  To say that I was exhausted would be an understatement.

But I learned a lot during that time.  I learned to be patient.  I couldn’t change the situation I was in so I had to rely on the Lord.  After making myself miserable (and probably those around me) I found this verse:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

So Paul had learned to be content, because the Lord was the one who gave him strength.  So I worked on this in my prayer life, thanking the Lord for the life that he gave me, that I had a job and aides to help, food on the table and a roof over that table.  My attitude got better and I wasn’t so miserable.  It was still extremely hard but I could feel that the Lord was with me, and my heart was so much more grateful for the small things in my life.

My husband died three years ago and lately I’m back in another waiting pattern.  I have plans to retire in two years so now I need to just wait until that two years is over.  I have plans for what I want to do when my life doesn’t revolve around my job.  Yes, this is a different waiting pattern because it has a scheduled end and I’m not as exhausted as I was before.  I’m anxious to get started on my plans, but they have to wait.

Until then, the Lord has put in front of me a challenge to deepen my study and prayer time.  This I can do before and after work, but it’s still a challenge for me!  I’m looking forward to my free time that I’ll have in several years, and then I’ll have a deeper knowledge of our Lord.

 

 

Gifts or Fruit?

We’re doing the Spiritual Gifts as a theme this month and I was thinking a lot of you may be thinking of the wrong thing. Many people confuse the Spiritual Gifts with the Fruits of the Spirit. They really are two separate things.  The Fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

In this section of Galatians, Paul is talking about walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh. If we are walking in the Spirit then we should be exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit. If we are walking in the the flesh, there is another list:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

Spiritual Gifts are something totally different. They are gifts that God has given everyone of us to do his work. We are usually aware of these gifts in one way or another but we don’t usually think of them in terms of a Spiritual Gift. Here is what Paul says about Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

I know that most of us don’t go around speaking in tongues or healing people. But what of someone who is really good at languages and learns them quickly and well? What about all the Doctors and Nurses (Aides, Technicians & Caregivers) out there? See? The Gifts are still out there and, actually, have been expanded on by some people. Many of these are Teaching, Shepherding, Evangelism, Mercy, Service and Hospitality, just to name a few.

You will find people all over using their gifts if you look for them. That friend who always makes you feel welcome in their home (Hospitality) or the person that always seems to be out helping someone but never talks about it and to them it’s no big deal (Service). There are those who can easily share about their faith (Evangelism) and those who work with the poor and needy (Mercy).

It’s easy to see the difference when you know what you’re looking for. Have you looked at yourself to see what your gifts are? Everyone has them. If you’re wondering how to start, you could get the book S.H.A.P.E.; Finding & Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life by Erik Rees. It would be a good start.

Pulling Weeds

pullingweedsWe’ve had lots of rain lately.  Lots and lots of rain.  If it hasn’t been raining the temperature is around 85 – 90 degrees and the humidity is sky high.  It’s been like walking through the bottom of the ocean.

Our battle this summer has been to keep our small yard from looking like a jungle.  Today the sun was shining and it wasn’t 90 degrees out with high humidity.  Good!  A day to go outside and pull weeds.  Some weeds were easy to pull – the ground is still moist from all the rain.  But then there were others that were extremely hard to pull out, you know the ones that snake all over and put down hundreds of roots all over the place.  Some were snaking around our flowers cutting off what small bit of sunshine that they would get.

As I was doing this I thought what a great analogy!! Our lives are like the flowers, trying to grow in a “hostile” environment.  As we grow in our Christian lives, the “weeds” spring up to choke out the sun and the water that we need to thrive.  Regular weeding is needed – pulling the unwanted things out of our life.  Some things come out easily – others are so hard, you never know if you get it all out.  You’ll find you need to do regular weeding to be sure your environment is cleared for growth.

That’s my thought for today – I hope your “gardening” is always easy.

 

Piety and Me

We’ve been blogging about piety this month and my thought is this:  What does it look like in real terms?  I usually get this vision of a person standing or kneeling with their hands together as in prayer with this light shining off them or a halo over their heads.  Hmmm, maybe not.  OK, how about someone who is always doing something “Godly” like going to church, doing good deeds for others….  No…  How about a monk or a nun who never leave the convent or cloister?

Since we live in a world where we can’t all just run to the nearest convent or cloister, we have to look at this from a real-world view.  We can’t withdraw from the world and spend all our time praying to the Lord and studying the Word.  We need to support ourselves and our families.  So, what do we do?  What does piety really look like and how do we go about starting to live this way?

Let me preface this with the statement that this is my personal view on piety.  I’m still working this out in my own life, believe me, it’s a process and I know that I’ll never see an end to it.  Why?  Because there is no end until Jesus returns.

Piety is personal and is between a person and God.  A person may think that if they do an hour of devotionals in the morning and an hour of Bible study every evening, go to church 2,3, or however times during the week, that they are “pious”.  Not that doing all that is bad, that’s not what I’m saying.  But why are you doing it?  Are you doing all that to impress God?  You want a gold star at the end of the world and a pat on the head? That’s not going to happen.  Doing “works” is good only if it comes from the right place in your heart.  Doing something to impress God or others doesn’t cut it.  Jesus said it like this:

 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  Matthew 6:5-6

I think that passage says more about personal piety than anything I’ve seen.  Pray in secret.  Just between you and God.  Stay humble.  Go to church, study the Bible, pray, do devotionals everyday or when you can.  Work it out in your life.  But keep it between you and God.  Cause when you start looking for pats on the head is when you are doing all this for the wrong reason.

God’s Book of Proverbs – Book Review

I just received our latest book in the mail and am already excited about reading it.  Lifeway Publishing has taken the books and verses in Proverbs and arranged them by topic.  What a great idea.  It makes it easy ti find a particular reference when you need it.  All of the many categories are arranged alphabetically and are easy to locate in either the index or by thumbing through the pages.

The quotes are from the CSB version of the Bible and there is an introduction by Trevin Wax, a biblical and reference publisher.  It also has a page that you can use if you wish to give this book as a gift.

I give this book 5 stars, that is right, this is a necessity for all Christian libraries.

 

You can purchased the book at:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/god-s-book-of-proverbs-P005799586

The Case for Christ – Book Review

I just finished reading the book “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel and I felt I should mention this book to others.  I love reading articles and books that confirm the Bible in history, and Lee Strobel’s book fits that description perfectly.

A movie has been made from this book and I have to tell you that I haven’t seen the movie, yet.  I’m more a book person and will read the book, if available, before I see the movie.  I’m always asked how the movie compared to the book and usually I have to say that there is always more details in the book.

Now, this book is wonderful for anyone who is wanting to include historic facts to their evangelism.  Lee Strobel, who was once an atheist, goes on a quest to prove Jesus didn’t exist.  His wife came home one day and told him she was now a Christian and he had to prove how wrong she was.   Lee, who is a well known investigative reporter, starts interviewing the experts from all over the country, bringing all the questions and doubts that he and others have raised.  At the end of each chapter there is a list of questions for deliberation or for group study.  Lee gives a full list of citations and a topical index at the end for further study.

The book is in three parts: Examining the Record, Analyzing Jesus and Researching the Resurrection.  In each part is the transcripts of his conversations with each expert.  It’s not what I would call an easy read.  While you are reading you need to pay attention to what is being said.  However, the book flows and pulls you into Lee’s quest up to the part where he makes his own decision to follow Christ.

For any skeptics that are reading this I would encourage you to pick up the book or, at least, see the movie.  For the Christians reading this, I would encourage you to read the book so that you can add some of the references to expand your knowledge of Biblical history.

“Ancient Words” a song by Michael W. Smith kept playing in my head once I got about halfway through this book.  Here are the lyrics and a link to hear the song.

“Ancient Words”
Holy words long preserved, For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart, Oh, let the ancient words impart

Words of Life, words of Hope, Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e’er we roam, Ancient words will guide us home

[Chorus:]
Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you
We have come with open hearts
Oh, let the ancient words impart

Holy words of our Faith, Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice, Oh heed the faithful words of Christ

Holy words long preserved, For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart, Oh let the ancient words impart

[Chorus:]
Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you
We have come with open hearts
Oh, let the ancient words impart

Here is a youtube video of the  song.  I apologize if there are ads; you can’t get away from them these days:

 

No pain, no gain.

I’m gonna be totally honest. I don’t know what this month’s theme is. Sorry, I’m doing good these days to know what day it is. (Which literally happened, in the middle of class, announced out loud . . .) Things have been a little hectic, but bearable, and I of course know how immensely blessed I am. I don’t want to appear as though I’m whining. I’m well aware that I’m not the only ‘older-mother-of-three-going-back-to-school-and-working-part-time-person’ out there. And others have it much harder I’m sure. I’m leaving something out though. And I believe what I’m leaving out  might encourage someone else.

I have struggled for a long time with back pains and problems. Please no sympathy. It’s given me perspective and gratitude. At 29-30 years old (I can’t remember exactly.) I suffered a massive rupture. God provided for me that day with an attentive husband, he noticed I was hurting more than usual and stayed home to help. I slipped off the bed I was trying to get out of to make it to the couch (with my husbands help) and it was enough to leave me paralyzed from the waist down. I couldn’t feel either of my legs and (long story short) had surgery which gave me a lot of relief,  but permanent nerve damage and a modicum of weakness remained.

Five and a half years later I’ve had a new symptom, swelling. And I can do less physically than before. A whole day of work over the summer doing the wrong things and it takes me a day to recover, with the help of some strong pain meds. I’ve tried physical therapy, Ice/Heat, pain pills, exercises,  nerve medicine, (I hated that) and currently I have a compression sock and back brace. The sock helps with swelling and the pain a bit. Not to mention I sit with pillows and pick things up with my feet or a grabber. I’m rambling I know, but I’m going somewhere I promise. Well now I’ve had another MRI. Nothing ‘new’ per say. But put my MRI’s side by side and I look like a burn victim on the inside. I am technically healed. Except the scar tissue is part of the problem. And the part of my back that malfunctioned is now riddled with arthritis. I have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. No surprise to me.

Like I said, no pity. I have hope. Mainly in God and the after life, but earthly hope as well. There is a device called a spinal cord simulator. SCS is two wires (leads) they insert into your spinal canal that is attached to a battery pack. There’s a remote with various settings that you control. The whole thing is designed to send electrical currents through you blocking your body’s abnormal pain signals therefore providing relief.

I’m waiting on approval for a trial period to test this out. And I know I have lots of people praying for me. So I hang on to hope and faith, and get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. God is good.

I