Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Goodbye Rights, Hello Happiness

Have you ever noticed how we (human beings) get caught up in our "rights"?  It's all around us, every day.  As a nation, we have the Constitution which guides us (or is supposed to anyway) in our rights as citizens.  But that's not exactly what I'm talking about today.

What I am talking about is our personal rights in relationship to others.  For instance, suppose you have been hurt by a friend.  You may think you have a legitimate right to be angry and upset.  You may even go as far as thinking that you have the right to hold that over them for a long time.  

Or take marriage for example.  Marriage is sometimes difficult because we focus on our right to be in a perpetually happy relationship.  Sometimes needs aren't met.  Sometimes one person feels that they give and give and give without anything in return.  Or maybe there has even been a betrayal of trust.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that most marriages end because of the "right" to be happy, which one or both people feel is impossible to achieve in that relationship.

But did you know that the Bible says we don't really have our own rights?  We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.  Furthermore, when we give our lives to God, we give up any rights we think we had anyway.  We become His bondservants.  

Consider Romans 6:17-18, But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  

Doesn't that mean, then, that all of these "rights" we think we've had become null and void?  To be a bondservant of Christ means that we forfeit our rights in order to obey His commandments.  For example, Christ clearly commands us to forgive, forgive, forgive.  Therefore, to live under Christ means that we have no right to hold a grudge against anyone, be it friend, relative, stranger or spouse.  After all, we've been forgiven, too, right?  I'm not saying that it's easy or that it doesn't take time, but it's what we are called to do as Christians.

Our culture is so saturated with lies about rights for this and that.  There are people claiming rights for everything it seems, so it's easy for that mindset to creep into the hearts of believers.  But we must remain strong and never forget that to be in Christ, to live abundantly and to love God means that we live only according to His commandments and not what we think we have the right to do or say.  

I could go on and on about this, but the last thing I'll say today is that from our selfish, human perspective, yielding our rights is arduous and painstaking.  But the Bible is clear that to be a slave to God is actually to be free, giving us the right to ultimate peace.  Romans 6:22-23, But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We serve a GOOD God, so to surrender our rights to Him is to bring ultimate joy and contentment to our own lives--while on earth and for eternity.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Bad Day

Yep, I'd had a bad day.  I don't know what it was, but I woke up feeling bad.  I think I can rightfully blame pregnancy hormones on part of it.  But then there was Jake, my brown-eyed 2-year-old, acting...2!  I was in no mood for his antics on this day.

His banana broke, so he flung it across the kitchen floor.  He wanted milk instead of the apple juice I'd given him, so, yes, it also went flying!  He hauled off and hit Emily right in the forehead for something--I never did find out why.  But enough about Jake.  He's normally a pretty sweet kid...it was just a bad day.

We had our regular day of school.  I struggled with patience that day, and of course when that happens, the kids can easily pick up on it.  It puts a damper on everything, and really creates a more frustrating than encouraging atmosphere.  That's never good.  But maybe something was in the air, because there was also a lot of disrespect creeping out of the mouths of my girls.  Normally they restrain themselves a little better, but not that day...it was just a bad day.

As I reflect back on that day, it occurs to me that on most days, I am the one who kind of sets the tone.  No wonder everyone was having a bad day!  But I was humbled when, in the early evening, Ashlyn informed me that she had written me a "surprise" on the whiteboard.  Here is what she wrote:

Obviously, I thought it was so sweet, but it broke my heart that my bad day had been so obvious to them.  I guess it was a bad day for all of us.  I apologized to them for being impatient, and of course they forgave me, because children are the most forgiving creatures on the face of the earth.  

So, yep, I'd had a bad day.  I don't know what it was, but I'm thankful for my kids (and my husband) who eventually encourage me and show God's love to me to get me through the bad days!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sweet, Sweet, Sweet

Hello Friends,

Yes, I am still here.  I have not "quit" my blog as it may seem.  I have merely been taking a short break because of my need for sleep in the mornings.  That is usually when I write/post, and lately I have not been able to pull myself out of bed before my little ones come begging for breakfast.  You would think I'm pregnant or something!  :)  Now that I am out of my first trimester, I look for these sluggish days to end soon (I hope)!

But, today I did want to take a few minutes to show off my new nephew, Beau Christopher.  We are so excited to meet him in person!!!  He looks like a real sweetie and I can't wait to get my hands on him!  Thanks to Skype, we were able to see him just hours after he was born.  
Isn't he sweet?  And I think that is his big brother's hand stroking his head.  

This reminds me of a verse of a beautiful hymn....one that has touched my heart especially since I've had children.  You know, it's sometimes scary thinking about bringing kids up in a world such as ours.  But I am comforted by these lyrics:

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still, the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days
Because He lives

We live in urgent and tumultuous times, and none of us know what hard times and difficulties we or our children will possibly have to face.  But knowing the assurance of salvation in Christ and the promise of peace in all circumstances, we can take heart because we know that He has already overcome death and will be the Great Victor.  Praise the Lord!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Our Holiday Weekend

With all of the storm activity that surrounded us last week (beginning and end), along with several other things that were consuming my thoughts, my mind was not focused and I did not spend the time that I really wanted just meditating on the cross and resurrection and all of the reasons we celebrate Easter.  Of course, that can be done anytime, right?  But I was so thankful for the worship service we were able to attend on Sunday with Jason's brother and family, and even today I was still chewing on the challenges that were laid before me on Sunday.

I'm so thankful for what Jesus has done for me, and my thoughts have turned to what it is I need to do in my life to show my true love for Him.  The speaker we heard on Sunday asked the question:  Who is calling the shots in your life?  Who really is sitting on the throne in your life?

As I have meditated on these things, I've been reminded that when I act on my emotions or when I harbor grudges or refuse to love, that is a clear indication that it is I who is sitting high and mighty on the throne.

But when I ask God for wisdom and live a life controlled by the Holy Spirit, then that's when I am letting Him call the shots for me.

That's where I want to be.  As I have thought about this and applied it to real life today, I have been convicted, yet set free.  Joy really does come when we are submissive to His purpose and plan for our lives!

It was great to be able to spend some time with family this weekend too.  Here are some shots of our trip...
When Emily saw the Easter Bunny, she went right up and gave him a hug (very unusual for her--she's usually more apprehensive).  I understood why she did it when she came back and very smartly explained to me that it was only someone dressed up in a bunny suit.

Ashlyn and Emily after the big egg hunt at Nana's house.

My three sweeties!

We were able to get a nice picture in before the kids had a great time getting their dresses (and pants) dirty in the green grass after church!  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

His Higher Ways

If you know my daughter Emily at all, then you may have noticed the fact that she loves to wear dresses.  In fact, if you see her not in a dress, then it's either because her pants have "sparklies" on them or because her shirt is sporting some sort of animal or princess.

Needless to say, we have made great use of all of her tights this winter.

So, the other day when I needed her to get dressed, I was sort of in a hurry and I'd asked her to go ahead and put her skirt on so I could finish up what I was doing.  This meant that the dress was going on before I put her tights on (instead of vice versa as usual).  She put up such a fuss, saying that it just didn't make sense to her.  I tried to explain that it would be fine and that her tights would be put on correctly, but she kept refusing because she didn't understand (I think in her mind she was imagining me putting her tights on over her skirt).

Running low on time (and patience), I finally said to her, "Emily, I know what I'm talking about.  Sometimes you just have to obey me even when you don't understand!"


My words of discipline to my daughter cut me to the core with conviction.

"But Lord, I can't be kind to that person.  If I do then they'll think I'm accepting what they've done."

"Lord, I'll do anything--just not that.  That doesn't make sense at all."

"Father, I know I am commanded to forgive, but I can't just let something like this go."

How many times have we all made statements such as these to our Heavenly Father?  And how many times has our Heavenly Father urged us to simply obey, even when we don't understand?

When I think of all that God has done for me, I remember His goodness, His faithfulness, His mercy and His lovingkindness.  I can see where He has reached out to me, even in the midst of times when I've felt alone.  But yet somehow, I still have trouble sometimes obeying Him when I don't understand what's going on.  I have trouble following His voice when it doesn't make sense to me.  I am so selfish.  My mind is so small.  

God is all-knowing, all-powerful and loves us so much.  He sees the big picture when we can only see inches in front of us.  I have been encouraged to continue on the path that God has laid out for me, even though I may not see the end result...yet.  He is ever faithful, and He is always true to His promises--even when we don't understand.

Isaiah 55:8-9, 11
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,"
declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter
for which I sent it."

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Whirly Wind

This is a home right up the road from us
that was lifted off its foundation and smashed
Tree in Mom and Dad's yard
One of our big oak trees that fell :(
Same tree, different angle
The playhouse was blown almost to the woods

Well, I don't have any for sure confirmation (as in I didn't see it with my eyes because it was dark), but the damage it left behind makes me feel sure that a small tornado ripped right through our property last night.

It was small enough to take out a very old oak tree by the roots and also small enough to lift a cherished playhouse and toss it around like a tumbleweed.  It was also small enough to snap several other trees around us and sound like a train.

I believe that this little twister probably bounced by us like a basketball, since not everything was wiped out.  We have much to be thankful for, though, because our house is fine except for a few very minor damages.  

The kids were pretty upset when we very urgently took off to the basement, and even more upset to find the damage that had been done to their playhouse.  But what an opportunity that gave us to teach them about being grateful for what didn't happen!  We didn't lose our house, or our pets or each other!  The tree didn't fall on our house or  their playset that Jason built last year.  There are many things that could have been worse, and we praise God that we were safe.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

True Love

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love,
Give preference to one another in honor.
Romans 12:9-10

As I read those verses yesterday morning, the first sentence stood out to me like it never had before.

Perhaps before I had simply of skimmed over that first part and concentrated more on the rich verses that follow.  But not this time.  

I suddenly realized that showing love to others is not enough.  Let love be without hypocrisy?  Could it mean that we must actually love, instead of merely acting like we do?  I started thinking of people who had offended me.  Even those to whom I am kind, but really deep in my heart I hold a grudge towards.  I had to be very honest with myself, and even though it was hard to face up to the truth of myself (it always is), I felt like the Holy Spirit was stirring my heart to love people in the way He intends.  Genuinely.  Compassionately.  Without hypocrisy.  

It seems to me that while it pleases God when we show love to others (particularly our "enemies"), it pleases Him even more when that love comes from an authentic place in our hearts.  You know what I had to do?  I had to pray that God would fill me with His love for others, because that kind of love is not exactly in my nature.  But it is His nature, and He desires to fill our hearts with it.  To me, that's what it means to live by the Spirit instead of the flesh (as in Galatians 5).

This is my prayer--to truly love even those who have offended me the most, even those people who, for whatever reason, I find difficult to love.  This is also important because I know that I have offended people, and I know that to some, I am difficult to love!  What it would mean to receive genuine love in spite of my shortcomings!  We have received it through Christ, and He enables us (as Christians) to have it and offer it to each other.  We can't depend on ourselves to do it, but only the Holy Spirit within us.  And we can trust in His faithfulness!