Chronicling 40: Day 13 of 365

UNITY

A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook, yesterday:

When people say they know the Lord & are filled with the Spirit, but lack humility or unity, I wonder what they are filled with.

That question has been on my own mind recently.  The ministry I work in was founded in uniting women who are leading in the church together.  The scriptures talk so much about unity (uniting us to God, uniting us to one another, etc).  I love Ephesian 2:14 where through Christ the two groups are made one destroying the barrier wall that divides.   It continues on to share how in this unity we find peace, hostility is crushed, fellow citizens, joined together.

So, when something comes along that seems to divide that work… I must wonder what is really happening?  What I do know is that as a ministry walks strongly forward in it’s calling, as it moves closer toward the destination God is creating the pathway for… the more it will be under attack.  The enemy seeks to destroy, divide, and discourage.

The good news is that we are told to expect these things, and so we put on the Armor of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.   Ephesians 6:10-13

What is this armor?

The belt of truth:  The Truth of the scriptures is secured around us.  We also have the truth of our lips, as we do not use the tools of the enemy such as lies and deceit.

The breastplate of righteousness:  The breastplate protects our heart, and we are covered by our reputation as being moral and just.

Our feet are fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace:  We are prepared to walk forward confidently because we know that we are walking in the pathway He laid before us.  We move at His pace, and in His timing.  We step out in peace because He is not a God of chaos or confusion.  He directs our steps.

Shield of Faith:  Our faith protects us against the arrows that the enemy will sling at us.  We can stand strong against the blows because we hold to the promises that the Lord has made to us and hold fast to His promises of a future.

The helmet of salvation: Our minds and ears are protected against the lies of the enemy that would tickle our ears with what sounds like truth.  We know that our salvation does not come from anyone but Christ and was given at the Cross.

The sword of the Spirit:  We know what the Lord says, we know His character, we know His heart, we can test anything that is presented before us against the Word.  It is a weapon that shines light upon the darkness, and slays the enemy who has no defense against it.

Praying in the Spirit:   Our final defense, and offense, is praying all kinds of prayers and requests that are in alignment with the will of God and praying for all of the Lord’s people.

As we march forward, dressed in our armor, we know that we do not need to worry about the plans of the enemy because we are equipped to stand against them.

I know that our ministry work has been affirmed, and I know that the Lord is not going to divide it.  It is not in His character to destroy or fracture something He has created.  There is a difference between expanding territory and dividing.  Thus, we proceed in confidence that His hand is directing our steps and that His will is being done.

Whatever comes against us, what ever stands in the way, whatever confusion tries to be set us… has zero power.

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Chronicling 40: Day 12 of 365

creation

In full disclosure, I’ve lived near the beach my entire life.  Always within just a mere few minutes of a drive.  I don’t understand the concept of going on vacation to the beach, when I live there.   Don’t mistake me for failing to see the beauty of the beach.  I love the beach, the water, even the sand.  I respect the beach, the depths of the ocean, the dangers just outside of the shore, and the riptides that seem invisible to the naked eye.  I even, to a degree, long for the beach.  It holds great memories, invokes feelings of peace, and there is nothing like the smell of the salt air.

I can count on two hands the number of times I have been in the last year.  In part, it is because of my fair skin.  I have two shades white and red, period.  I do not tan, or get a little color. I have had sun poisoning a few times in my life.  I’d much rather take an evening stroll than sit and bake in the sun.  As my dermatologist reminds me… I am the textbook case for getting skin cancer.  Joy.

So many of my friends love the beach because it is an inexpensive place to take the kids, and we have access to it year long.  I remember going to the beach as a teen, a tote bag and a towel.  As a mom, we are lugging chairs, towels, umbrellas, toys, sunscreen, snacks, lotions, changes of clothes, etc.   It feels more like work than pleasure, especially here where you can finally get settled and 30 minutes later a storm rolls in and you need to quickly pack up and run to the car.

I absolutely recognize that I am making excuses, there is no reason I can’t go to the beach with the kids and expect them to carry all of their own stuff.  I know that I can go on my own when the kids are in school, meeting up with a friend or two (or being a big girl and staking out a spot all on my own).  I can ask my husband to go with me on a walk at night.  I’ve even considered having a bike rack put on the jeep so that we could take our bikes for ride along the shore.

The truth is, like many things, I have taken the ocean for granted.  I have assumed it will always be there, exactly as I remember it.  I’ve also assumed that I will always been in driving distance, or health, or whatever other assumption I’ve adopted to validate my excuse for saving beach trips for another day.  This beautiful environment that the Lord has created, I put off enjoying for no real good reason.  Procrastination, distraction?  Maybe.

What about other aspects of God’s creation?

Our marriage?  Our relationship with our children?  Our health?

Do we take these things for granted?  Do we assume that these too will always been the same?  That there will be time for us to enjoy these relationships later on when life “life slows down”?

I made some assumptions a long time ago, that I’ve learned were far from true.  I assumed once my kids were all in school, I’d be less busy.  That I would have time for so many things that it turn out are still evading me.  I assumed my other stay home mom friends and I would get together all of the time.  Hardly.  In fact, I count myself lucky if I can see them three times a year.  I’m busy.  They are busy.  Life happens.

I now wish I would have made more of an effort to pack up the kids, when they were younger, and go to that play date or meet that friend at the park.  I wish we went to the beach more.  I wish I didn’t take things for granted, assuming that nothing would change or that things would get easier.

Something 40 has taught me is that my life isn’t over, there is still time to enjoy all of these things.  It will take effort for some things, compromise for others.  I may have to plan to make things happen, and reroute those plans when life intervenes.  But, there is still time today, tomorrow, and all year long to change things from being taken for granted and into taking advantage of the blessing and opportunities before us.

Chronicling 40: Day 10 of 365

taste

I love food.  I love the presentation of food, the smell, the texture, and the taste.  I don’t mind getting my fingers dirty because of a great slab of ribs on my plate, nor do I mind using special tools to eat unconventional foods.  All of these senses coming together in an experience that is supposed to be satisfying and enjoyable.  In fact, I love food so much that I am willing to try just about anything once.

I have sat down to a plate of food that looked anything but appetizing and ended up having one of the best meals of my life.  In contrast, I’ve also been presented a plate of well crafted foods… artwork on a porcelain plate… and barely able to take a second bite.  There have been foods that smell amazing, but the flavor was lacking (my husband feels this way about coffee, it’s ok… I’ve forgiven him).

Here is the thing, because I have an openness toward trying different foods… cuts, cooking styles, seasonings, etc… I know GOOD food.  A few years ago, I was at a cookie exchange and two women were commenting on how they brought the exact same cookies and they tasted so differently.  They compared their recipes, nothing was amiss.  So, I sampled them both and replied:  “One of you used salted butter, the other used unsalted butter.  That is what made the difference.”  Sure enough, I was right.

I know that it is not just about the ingredients but also how we cook it, you can do everything right in the preparation but then flub it up in the execution.  It happens, to the best of us.  There have been a few meals over the last 20 years that I have tossed right into the trash, as we waited for the pizzas to arrive.

There are so many pieces of scripture that compare words to food, or eating food.

Matt 4:4 says that we can’t live on bread alone but the Word of God.  Jer 15:16 speaks of the joy of drinking in God’s Word.  1 Peter 2:2 compares the Word to milk.  Hebrews 5:12,15 compares it to solid food.  Psalm 113 calls it “honey in my mouth”.  Psalm 119:11 we read of storing up His word (akin to how we store up food).  We are told that it is good for us, nourishing to our bodies and souls, we are told to keep it on our lips, to consume it.

We are also warned to be careful about the words that come out of our own mouths.  How do you words taste when they come out of your mouth?  Are they bitter?  Does it sting or burn?  Are these words that destroy and divide, or tear down another?

Delivering bad news, it is so hard to do.  Yet, it amazes me how gentle we can be when pushed into that circumstance.  The words may be hard, but they are spoken with sweetness, compassion, and love.

We can also take harmful words and try to envelop them in words that sound sweet.  It may look good, it may sound good, but the words are bitter to the taste.  We know they are harmful words and we do everything we can to hide that fact.  This reveals so much about our intentions, of wanting to say something that isn’t beneficial but also trying to avoid ownership for those words.  When we encase them to make them appear harmless or sweet, good intentioned… we can then claim ignorance, blame misunderstanding, or even try to convince the recipient that it is their perception of our words that is off.

There are other times when our words sting, and we mean them to sting.  When we are purposefully lashing out at another person.  It’s that old cliche saying of “hurt people, hurt people”.  Whether it is spoken in revenge, anger, jealousy, etc… these words are sharp and there is no mixed message about it.

I’m sure we can all agree that these three points are obvious, we’ve all encountered them.  But recently, I was made aware of another example that wasn’t quite so obvious.

If we are called to use our words to build up, encourage, unify, strengthen, in love, for peace, etc… than any use of our words otherwise is counter to that call.

The enemy seeks to destroy, to discourage, to divide, to weaken, to hurt, to cause chaos, and confusion.  He is also a liar and manipulator, who can camouflage his plans to look and sound like a good idea or path.

Would God present you with an opportunity that would cause division among your friends?  Would He call you down a pathway that would become a stumbling block for your family?  Would He call us to a purpose that would intersect and cut off the work of another ministry or organization that He has ordained?

Sometimes these ideas and opportunities sound good, Kingdom worthy, and they may “feel right”.  These opportunities may not be bad, evil, or destructive.  In fact, they can even be a blessing to the community (God makes beauty out of ashes, and redeems all things to be used for His glory).

How much of this has to do with our own desires impacting our perception of truth and calling?  I remember reading something to the effect of “God will never give you another woman’s husband.”  This guy may be our knight in shining armor, and everything could feel so right… so much so that you could almost catch your self thanking God for bringing this man in to your life.  No matter how wonderful it feels, the truth is that God would never destroy one marriage or divide a family in order to bring you a husband.  That is a slap in the face to the very character of God displayed in the scriptures.

It would not be of God’s character to give you something that He intended for someone else.  We must be very careful not to credit God with orchestrating things in our lives that are actually of our own doing, our own desires, or that contradict who we know Him to be.

I believe one way to flesh these things out is to taste the words of your intentions.  Do they taste sweeter than honey or are they bitter.  Do they flow easy from your mouth, or do you struggle to speak?  Are your words working toward something or against someone? Are these words that are surrounded in peace or are they littered with chaos and confusion?  Are you confident in the calling or are you trying to convince yourself that you have been called?

If we are leaning in close to God, praying for clarity and discernment, then I believe the Holy Spirit is going to reveal the truth.  I believe that if you have to struggle and attempt to justify yourself, you will taste that those words are not good.  You will feel it in your heart, mind, soul, and even body that you are going in a direction that is not right. You will feel weighted and burdened in a very negative way, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is that you feel so bad.

But, when you are in alignment with God’s calling on your life, you will feel freedom to move forward at His pace.  There will be excitement and you won’t need to justify it to anyone (including yourself) because you will know deeply that this is the way you should go, and you will walk in it confidently.  You will not be weighted down with burden, but soaring!

So taste those words that come out of your mouth.  Before you make that phone call, or send that email, or even schedule that face to face meeting…

Say it out loud.  Don’t embellish it with fancy explanations and trying to justify it.  Speak it in plain simple facts.  Then ask yourself, how would I feel if I was the one receiving this message.  Would I feel hurt or betrayed?  Would I feel attacked or discouraged?  Do these words sound divisive or damaging?  Do these words taste bitter, are they unsavory?  Would I not want to receive this message?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then pull back and pray over this situation.  Ask for His peace and clarity over your steps.  Remember He is not a God of chaos, disorder, or confusion.  He does not change His Word or character to bend to the will of one person, He is consistent and constant.  He will not give you peace over a decision or direction that He does not intend.

If the words are bitter, if the mind is clouded in confusion… do not rush into anything but the arms of God.

Chronicling 40: Day 9 of 365

ontarget

I’m not entirely certain if this has something to do with turning 40, or that we had a ministry training this morning on budgets, but…

I went to Target and only bought what was on my list.  I walked out with five things.  FIVE. 

I’m counting this as a victory, because I exercised restraint. I did look.  I may have laid my hands on a few things, or raised an item or two off the shelf.  The important thing is that I put it down and kept walking.

Miracles.

Chronicling 40: Day 8 of 365

stormsofheart

I live in an area where storms can roll in fairly quickly, and they often don’t stay very long.  Unless we are in for a big storm like a tropical depression or hurricane, we know that we can usually ride out the rain and resume our day.

The storms that we have had lately are very short, but very strong.  The thunder vibrates our sliding glass doors, the lightening brightens the dark clouded skies.  You don’t always see them coming either.  Just the other day, I walked out of my home to beautiful skies. As I drove toward my destination the skies opened up… floodgates unleashed.

Storms remind me of anger.  How quickly it can rear up even during the calmest of moments.  Today was a day like that, and today was a day that I remind us all that none of us are perfect parents… have perfect children… and perfect lives.  No matter how public your platform, or private your struggles… we are all battling something.

Today was off to a beautiful day.  Kids got up, dressed, and out the door on time.  We were visiting family for lunch and quality time in the pool.  My youngest wanted her older cousin to join us in the pool, he didn’t want to… she was persistent and then when he still didn’t comply….

SHE SMACKED HIM IN THE FACE.

Can I tell you that I was stunned she would do this to her cousin.  It’s one thing to see siblings squabble and get handsy… who hasn’t had to separate sisters and brothers in brawl mode at some point in their lives.  But never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined my daughter would smack her adult cousin.

Never.

As a mom, I was mortified.  I have “trained her the way she should go”.  I have talked to her about being nice to others, treating others with respect, and the golden rule.  I know that we nipped the hitting thing years ago when she was a toddler.  How then could she have done such a thing?

As a person, I was absolutely embarrassed.  I wondered what the newer family members who don’t know us well would think about such a thing happening?  Would this impact their desire to be around her? Would they question my parenting?  Would they wonder if I was a safe person to baby sit their children some day?

Yes, all of that rolled through my head.  And, then I was angry.

The tone in my voice as I reprimanded her… heavy, stern, deep, pointed.

The words I used (and hated to hear when I was a child)… I am disappointed in you.

The question asked, that always gets the same answer, but I asked it anyway… What were you thinking?  Why did you do that?

Ugh.  Why must parenting be so hard?   Shouldn’t having three kids mean that by this point I am doing most things right?  Why does it have to be my kid?  (LOL).

Of course being reprimanded was not fun for her, I could see the remorse as tears stained her cheek.  I gave her some time to gather herself together and then she needed to apologize to her cousin.  We also continued our conversation after we both calmed down, because we also needed to be reminded of our love for each other and our family… despite the needed correction and tension of the moment.

As I write this, I can hear my father in laws voice in my head:  “Your sin nature is showing!”. That is what he used to tell his kids and grandkids when they were misbehaving.  I really disliked hearing him say it.  Sometimes, I thought, they were just being a toddler… cranky… sleepy… etc.  Not everything that we do that is unpleasant is our sin nature, right?

But this moment when my daughter struck someone… that was sin showing.  She’s not been able to explain why she did it.  So, I don’t know if she was trying to be funny and didn’t mean to hit him that hard (not that it makes it ok).  I don’t know if she was trying to bully him (although with their age difference that makes no sense).  I don’t know if she was frustrated she wasn’t getting her way and lashed out.  But, if I had to put my money on it… she was trying to be a big shot.  She’s at a weird age where behavior makes no sense sometimes.  I actually remember being this age, and some of the stupid things I would do that I thought made me look like a big shot… cooler than I was.

Regardless of which reason it turns out to be, it is still sin.  I’m thankful that she felt remorse, that she apologized, that her cousin forgave her, and their relationship is restored.

Anger is like a storm, but Jesus is the one who controls the winds and waves with His very Word.  By His command the storms cease, the waters are calmed, and we are secure.

When we repent of our sin, seek forgiveness, and gaze upon the Cross… we know that we are forgiven and the price is paid for our sin that rears its ugly head.  We are redeemed, reconciled to our King, and secure in our future.

Even when we try to be the big shot.

The storms of our hearts are called by the One who dwells within.

Chronicling 40: Day 7 of 365

cats

I have a cat.  I say that because there are a lot of people who are unaware that we have a cat in our house.  In fact, we had a family member visiting not that long ago who asked: “When did you get a cat?”.

Our cat is seventeen years old, so yeah… we’ve had her for a bit.

The reason is that she was kind of anti-social.  She was fine with us, but if company came to visit… she was a ghost.  Slinking in and out of shadows, hiding in dark corners; you’d never know she was here.

In the last couple of years, however, she’s become the fixture in our home.  She visits people, even if they’ve only come into the house for the first time.  She has no cares about invading your space.  She despised our doxie, and now the two of them share space (we’re not at cuddling… yet).

I joked with my daughter that she had entered that time of the golden years when elderly people no longer care what people think.  Where they wear what they want, go where they want, say whatever comes to mind, and couldn’t care less of how others receive them.  Our cat has decided to live her best life in her golden years, and her playfulness and social visits are evidence of that truth.

We were discussing this a few nights ago, and I said… I hope that when I am the equivalent to her age as a human that I feel the same way.  Where I will wear whatever I want, do whatever I want, say what I really think, and have confidence in who I am.  Let’s be honest, no matter how far we get from high school days, there is still an element of us that is concerned with how others perceive us.  Our professional image, our ministry work, our family, etc area all impacted by how others view us.  We’ve been trained to put our best foot forward, at all times.

John the Baptist didn’t care what others thought of him.  Certainly there were those who thought he was a little off, gone mad, a little eccentric, etc.  But those who followed him had no doubt that he was a man of God.

Maybe I won’t wait until I am in my 70’s or 80’s to embrace all the facets of my personality, which were crafted in my mother’s womb by God who knew my name before it was ever uttered by my parents.

Chronicling 40: Day 6 of 365

summer

In roughly two weeks my kids go back to school.  Where did this summer go?  I feel like we just started summer break.  It seemed like we had so much time, and now we are running out.

Parents of youngsters, I know that quite a few of you are counting down the days until your kids are back in school.  Summer squabbles are exhausting.  Proclamations of boredom may be grating your last nerve.  And all of the eating, you are tired of spending so much time prepping snacks or telling your kids to stay out of the pantry.

As a mother who knows what that is like, let me give you some hope… one day this too will pass.  This is not the first summer where I am asking for a summer buffer… a little more time.  More time to rest.  More time to spend with the kids.  More time to do things. More time to connect.

Before you know it, you have a kid starting college and another entering high school.  The baby?  She’s finishing up her last year of elementary school.   Your kids are turning into adults before your eyes.

When you feel the summer struggles creeping in… try to embrace the days you have left.  There are only so many summers before adulthood.

As I grow older, so do my kids, and perhaps hitting 40 makes me a bit more aware of how old they are… how little time I have left in these years… and a desire to make the most of it.