Saturday, March 31, 2018

Take Me to Church


At the start of the new year, my co-workers initiated an eight-week weight loss challenge. I was interested in it right away because I had already decided that I wanted to lose weight and get back to exercising. The plan made me nervous. There was a $20 entry fee. If the weekly challenge wasn’t met, or you gained weight at the weekly weigh-in, there was a $5 fine. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place would receive a portion of the bank. I had mixed emotions. I was nervous to try it, fail, and owe a lot of money. I was also excited because I knew that it might just be what motivated me. I took the plunge and signed up.

It was good. It brought companionship and accountability. I entered not expecting to lose a ton of weight, or to win. Losing weight can be difficult and it is interesting how you can lose weight on days you are not trying as hard and gain weight on days that you are trying. It is an emotional roller coaster. As I look back on it, I really liked the eating plan I chose. I felt great and I had extra energy. I thought I could continue to drink 64+ fluid ounces of water every day and stay on my exercise plan forever. In the end, I got 3rd place. I should have been “wooo-hoooing” but I was disappointed it was the end. Now, I was on my own to eat healthy and exercise. Enter Spring Break: a lot of good food, not enough exercise and a real bad sunburn that laid me up for a few days – what a way to break momentum.

As I was recovering from my sunburn, I considered all that I had gone through and I compared it to how it feels going to church. Being a Christian can be like a roller coaster. It has its highs and lows. Going to church can be like my weight loss challenge. It brings accountability and companionship. The only difference is with church, there is no end date unless you choose it.

I have been going to church my whole life. I have missed very few Sundays. Even on the days that I am dragging to get to church for whatever reason, I am always blessed after I get there. It could be that going to church is such a habit for me that if I am not there, I feel bad. I have met many people who love the Lord but going to church isn’t a habit to them. It is like my weight loss challenge. They want to stay on the plan, they feel good when they are doing it, it brings companionship and accountability, but something happens and they stop. After they stop….it is soooo hard to get started again.

This post isn’t a judgement on those who stop going to church. It is me saying, “I get that the struggle for some is real.” I also want to say: just like your health is important, so is going to church. My parents took me to church every Sunday. I am pretty for sure that their parents took them to church every Sunday. But somewhere down the family line, I am not sure where, some of my ancestors had to make the choice to go to church on a regular basis. Going to church isn’t about having to wear certain clothes or making it a big deal. Going to church isn’t about the show you see when you get there or about being entertained. It isn’t about the money they ask for at offering time. It is about worshipping the Creator of the world through songs, teaching, helping and fellowship. It is remembering the love Jesus showed for you because He died in your place, for your sin. It is where complete strangers are not strangers because you have commonality: Jesus. When you get in the groove, it can be a high. It can be joyous. It is righteous. I love that feeling, but after going to church for 40+ years, I know it is just a feeling. Feelings come and feelings go and then going to church might not feel good anymore. It is so, so important that we don’t listen to our feelings. Hebrews 10: 24 - 25 says: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For those who are struggling, I wish I could give you a list of ways to make going to church easier. There is really no easy way. I do know that God wants you at church. He wants us to sharpen each other. You might think no one misses you, but your presence is missed. What you could give, what you could get. You will never know. Your presence is a ripple in the water. You may never see it on this side of heaven, but something is always happening. If you just sit back and watch, you can see God working. Echoes of the message that He is teaching you. This Sunday and every Sunday after, remember the important part you play at church. It is not only an important part of your Spiritual health, but the collective Spiritual health of the other members of your church. What I can say is: pray about it. Ask the Lord for help and  I hope to see you Sunday.
“Happy Easter!” or as I like to say it, “Happy Resurrection Day!”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Landmarks


When I drive a certain section of road, I am taken back to the day we moved to the area. Signs, buildings, and the way the road curves takes me back to the feelings I felt that day. Feelings of anxiety, tiredness and excitement to start a new adventure were tumbling about in my mind. Leaving the place where we had lived for 9 years was a hard decision because we were comfortable. I thought the move there was the hardest move since we were moving away from our families…no, it was the move back. I was unsure about many things, mostly the adjustment of my kids. 5 years later, those feelings come flooding back to me as I drive that section of road. Those feelings serve as reminders to me that God is faithful and that He is in the small and big things in my life. That journey on the road can be very Spiritual.

It also reminds me of a part in the Bible when the Israelites set up their own landmarks. The Israelites had been wandering in the desert and they were ready to enter the Promise Land with Joshua as their leader. If you are familiar with the wanderings of the Israelites, you would know that they had been hardhearted, and their hardheartedness had kept them from entering the Promise Land earlier. One of the first challenges for them as they entered the land was to cross over the Jordan River. Miraculously, the water parted and the entire nation of Israel walked over on dry ground.  If you want to read the story, go to Joshua 3-4.  Joshua 4 tells us the Lord told Joshua to choose 12 men, one from each tribe, to go to the middle of the river and pick out a stone. Joshua set up those stones and they were to be a landmark, a memorial to the Israelites about what happened that day. I can imagine the Israelites might have been feeling apprehension, tiredness and excitement as they knew the road ahead of them was certain and uncertain. They knew the Lord was certainly giving them the Promise Land, but how He would do it was uncertain. The stones eventually were forgotten, but I am sure they did serve as reminders to the Israelites of the feelings that were felt that day.

I am also sure that everyone has moments like these. Something will take you back to a memory -  a smell, a sound, a picture, a landmark. The memory could be good or bad or a little of both. It is important to give these memories to God and ask Him what you should take away and learn. During this process, give glory to God for His faithfulness. You could go a step further and build your own landmark. When something “big” happens in your life, capture it with a token of the moment. Each time you see it, you can praise the Lord for His faithfulness and you can tell others about it.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—
 though I know not how to relate them all. 16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. 17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. 18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. 19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God?20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. 21 You will increase my honor and comfort me once more. Psalm 71:15-21

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Permission to Grieve and Permission to Dream


I have been trying do a “Read through the Bible in a Year” reading schedule every other year. At times it is very easy and other times it can be very difficult. I decided this year, instead of reading it, I would listen to it. I have already decided after doing it for a couple weeks that I appreciate reading it more, but there is some blessing in listening to it as well. I have a 30-minute kid-free drive to work and the 20 minutes it takes to listen to Scripture being read has been a calming blessing on my way to work.

The plan I am listening to is a chronological plan. After listening about Noah in Genesis, the reader transitioned to Job – not my favorite book of the Bible. Job seemed to have everything going for him- wealth, health, family and friends. Those things were taken from him – to a certain extent- and he had done nothing wrong. At the end of the reading for that day, the reader gave some commentary on the text. She also mentioned how beginning the year reading about Job might be depressing, but that could be where some people were right then in their personal lives. She wanted to give the listeners “permission to grieve.”

That reminded me of a friend who found out that she wasn’t going to be able to have children, or another friend whose husband wanted a divorce because he wasn’t in love with her anymore. They needed permission to grieve. Their bad circumstance wasn’t because of something they had done. It wasn’t that God didn’t love them anymore or He was trying to tell them something. It just was. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time to mourn. We all have had disappointments in our life. It doesn’t matter how large or small our disappointments are, give yourself permission to grieve. Grieving can be healthy.

In my “about me” section of my blog I wrote that being a wife and mother was what I always wanted to be. Which is very true. In kindergarten when all the other kids knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, I just wanted to be a mom. Even at that time, I somehow thought that wasn’t a good enough answer and I copied another girl’s answer of wanting to be a singer. I never wanted to be a singer. Now, here I am a wife and a mother, just what I truly wanted…and yet life isn’t always what I planned or expected. Even in doing what I always wanted, I have had to grieve plans and expectations that weren’t meant to be. Also, I struggled writing the “about me” section because I know many ladies that wanted to be married and/or have children and they didn’t. I didn’t want to make my life sound so perfect, because it is not. I have a sign in my house that says, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” Life is what we make it - the imperfections and all.

As we get older, we forget to dream, or we think we are too old to dream. We need to give ourselves permission to dream. In my prayer journal I have a section where I have written my dreams. It makes me not ashamed of my dreams and it gives me confidence to hand my dreams over to my Heavenly Father.

In 2018, give yourself permission to grieve your disappointments in your life and permission to dream your heart’s desires.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Give Grace



I looked up “grace” in the dictionary. It is a word that can be used in many ways. For instance, some people are graceful in the way that they speak and in the way they move. It is the name we give to the prayer before a meal. It could be used in addressing a person who is royal. The word grace is best understood by Christians. It is represented by Jesus coming to earth and dying in our place for our sins. He pardoned us. That is grace. That is mercy. As Christians, we want to be like Christ and we want to be full of grace.

In churchland, (sorry, I made that up) you might have heard it said about a difficult person needing EGR, or extra grace required. It is a “cute,” sometimes not nice, quip used as a reminder to give grace, even to those who we find difficult to be around. *Everyone can be an EGR at times.

This Christmas, as you are finishing up your shopping and you are celebrating with friends and family, please take a moment and think about people in your life that need to be given grace. Make a mental list of the people who annoy you, who hurt you, who you are jealous of and start offering them grace. It may just be a mental attitude shift. No one needs to know. It may be in the way you respond to them. Think of it this way, if your best friend would have said that or did that frustrating thing, you may have responded differently. Treat that person how you would your best friend.

A synonym for grace is mercy. Jesus said in Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Giving grace could be difficult, but it could be the best and cheapest gift you give. It could enrich your marriage, your family life, your workplace, your church, etc.
This Christmas, give grace.

*updated 12/25/17

Monday, November 20, 2017

'Tis the Season for Giving Forgiveness


In the month of November many people take the time to be thankful. If you are on Facebook, some of your friends may come up with something to be thankful for each day of the month. It might be said that this is the “Season of Giving Thanks.”


A year ago, some company started running an advertisement that stated "Happy Thanks for Giving." I wasn’t quite paying attention, so I thought they said, "Happy Thanks for Forgiving.” I realized my mistake quickly, because who would spend money to promote forgiveness? (In fact, it appears being offended is the promotion of the day.)

The whole misunderstanding has got me thinking, even a year later. To be truly thankful and to truly give from your heart, you need to forgive. Maybe this season should also be the season for forgiving.

Mother Teresa said this, “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the world your best and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway." Jesus says in Matthew 6: 14, For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

It can be hard to forgive. I have awoken from sleep so disturbed by what someone did that my heart would be racing and I couldn’t go back to sleep. Through time, I found praying it through and forgiving in my heart would seem to help until a few weeks or months down the line I would wake up disturbed about the same incident all over again. I thought when Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70 times 7, it was about different offenses. In my case, I had to forgive 70 times 7 for the same offense. Forgiveness might take time, but it is important. It is better than packing it up just to find it again later, and that can mean for a lot of baggage. For you see, it isn’t really about the people you need to forgive, but it is always about the relationship between you and God anyway.



Happy Forgiving and Thanksgiving.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Parenting is Heart Work, Week 8

The title for week 8 is "How to Start Connecting with the Heart."

We have been learning a lot about the hows and whys of instructing and correcting our children. I hope through it all you have seen the importance of relationship when working with your child's heart. I wrote "child's" because even though you might have multiple children, it is important to parent each child separately. Each child needs special thought and consideration. This is work, but it is good work...in fact it is the best work.

Chapter 6, "Turn on Their Heart Lights" and Chapter 8, "Making the Connection" are the two chapters we were to have read out of the book.

The take away that I would like  you to get out of Chapter 6 is this:
Emotionally connecting with your children isn't done just so you can all feel good. Connecting with your son or daughter emotionally softens hearts and prepares the way for much of the hard work of parenting, making it more tolerable and perhaps enjoyable. You must be proactive to maintain closeness with your children. Start by asking yourself the important question, "How does my child like to be loved?........Each child is different. If you have trouble knowing what helps your children feel loved, ask them. They often have insights that get you thinking in the right direction.

What I what you to take away from Chapter 8 is this:
The Gratefulness Principle
Every person's heart contains a "gratefulness button." Seven year old Joshua beams when Mom holds out a plate of cookies and says, "I made your favorites." Mom found the button. Seventeen-year-old Sandra is pleasantly surprised that Mom washed the black pants she wants to wear to the party. Her eyes get big with delight, and Mom knows she's touched her daughter's heart. You feel grateful when your son surprises you by cleaning up the kitchen without being asked, and you give him a big thank-you hug. Gratitude increases closeness. It is useful in parent-child relationships but it also important in marriages, the workplace, and with friends. 

The above passage isn't a fairy tale. Family members can be grateful for small things like making favorite cookies or washing an item of clothing. It sounds small, but it can be powerful in family life. Sometimes parents over indulge their children and it results in children who are not grateful. It is very important that children can learn this principle because it will help them in life outside of the family.

I am grateful that I was able to do this work in Parenting is Heart Work. I have been able to refine some techniques and I continue to see progress with my kids. I can stop here and be fine....but I am not and I want to encourage you to not stop either. Continue to grow and learn as a parent. New challenges will pop up and we will all need reminders and encouragement to be better parents. God bless you as you parent your children's heart!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Parenting is Heart Work, Week 7

Summer is half over! I had a fabulous time at a family reunion this weekend. My eyes are a bit sleepy, but I am determined to finish this Parenting is Heart Work! I can't say over and over again how much I like this curriculum. It takes time, work, effort....but I think it will be well worth it. As I reflect at the past weekend and look at my family reunion I see attitudes and actions of people I have known my whole life, whom I love very much. I pause, however,  and I think of why they did something, or why they said something. Those things can give you a window into their heart. The weekend went well, but it could have been disastrous if people's hearts would have held bad attitudes. In the end we celebrated my sweet Grandma. Reflecting on that, my hope is to raise a generation - my own children- who can be respectful and thoughtful and remember that where their treasure is, their heart will be also.....That being said, the title of week 7 is "Attitude: A Window into a Child's Heart"

The reading in the book that coincides with this lesson are Chapter 5 and Chapter 12.

Chapter 5 is entitled, "Emotions Have Feelings Too." Here is the nugget I would like you to get from this chapter.
...the heart is where emotions are felt. Deep seated needs are often experienced on an emotional level. Ultimately, God is the one who fulfills all of our needs, and he uses a number of tools to do so. God created the family to be a place where emotional needs are met. In fact, parents are a primary source for a child's emotional health, and how Dad and Mom relate to their children sets an important foundation.

Chapter 12 is entitled, "A Light on the Path to Heart Change." This is a great chapter about using Scripture - why you should use Scripture and how to use it.
While helping children think rightly in their hearts, don't fall into the trap of a simple "positive-thinking" mentality. We aren't just trying to get our kids to "think happy thoughts" so they can fly. That may happen to Peter Pan, but it doesn't happen in real life. Just thinking about your favorite things may get you through a stormy night, as in the movie "The Sound of Music," but it's not enough to help children through the deep struggles they face. 

Although the Bible's message is positive, it's balanced with a realistic understanding of who we are and what we need. Children need to see the courage of Daniel, who stood for convictions as he faced the lions' den, and hear about Gideon, who was able to fight a huge army with only a few men. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho by trusting God, and David killed a giant with just a few small stones.

Sometimes as a parent, we have our own giants to face....our own emotions. When we are frustrated or angry....why are we? (There is the immediate thing that made you frustrated/angry..but why is it such a big deal?) Sometimes answering those questions help us become better people and better parents. If those answers are hard to come by, know this....God knows you and understands you. He wants to help you conquer your emotional giants. Just ask Him. If you need help, I would be happy to pray for you.

God bless you though your parenting!