In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why all the talk about male-female differences?


I used to wonder why all the talk about male female differences.

Then I got married and now I understand why.

My husband and I are very slowly reading through the book entitled Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs together. Recently we read a section where Eggerichs uses an extremely simple but effective analogy.

He says that it as if men and women have sun glasses and hearing aides through which they filter everything they see and hear. Women have pink ones and men have blue ones. Because of these sight and sound filters, even though they experience the same events, they are perceived differently. He goes on to give a few examples of situations in marriage where partners feel hurt and misused but the other partner doesn't see it due to their filters, but that any person of the same gender would totally understand.

As my husband and I read through the examples we can both understand the person of our own gender, and because of the book, begin to understand the person of the other gender. Looking at other people is always safer, not apt to produce an arguement, not so emotionally ladden, as looking at our own disagreements.

But it is beginning to help us see things differently.

I used to get so upset at my husband regarding behavior of his that I interpreted to mean that I was not important to him, that he didn't love me. Then I would act crabbily and he wouldn't fee respected. I'm now starting to reframe his actions and see them differently. It's about understanding that he thinks differently than I do and choosing to believe the best of him.

The bottom line is men and women really ARE different.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Are you a perfectionist or just a high achiever?


This question interests me because I'm a recovering perfectionist who wants to be a high achiever.

Perfectionism is my enemy.

I've struggled against it for as long as I can remember. Although you'd never know it to look at me since I'm certainly not perfect in any way!

But I've often let it rob me of joy.

I want things so just right that when I fail, as everyone is prone to at some point, I sometimes want to just give up because it won't be "just right" any more.

I even have daydreams about things being perfect; total organization in my home, perfectly planned meals and family traditions, the best in my career, etc.

I want change and am working to do so. I want to be someone who strives for excellence in a healthy way but not a perfectionist. I think healthy people who desire excellence take genuine pleasure in trying to meet high standards. I've been known, in my perfectionistic mode, to be full of self-doubts and fears of disapproval, ridicule and rejection. I want to have drive, but not be driven.

It seems like I've been doing well in this arena but I find that I have to be on the aware because it creeps up on me. I'm reminded of the verse in 1 Peter 5:8 that says to:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

For me, one of the forms the enemy takes on is the voice of perfectionism.

Do you ever struggle with this black/white perfectionism?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Are you a good boss?


Tyler over at The Journey blog site (http://tybraun.blogspot.com/) has got me to thinking about managerial styles with his posting on the perfect boss.

I've been blessed with many good bosses throughout my life, and a few poor ones. I've always tried to be one of the good ones.

I think there is a life principle involved in being a boss - the principle of stewardship.

As a Believer I know that the people in my life are there by the will of God. He wants to work through both them and me to accomplish His purposes. The people with whom I'm in a leadership position, be that at work or even with my children, are on loan to me from God. It's my responsibility to do right by them so to speak.

The biggest issue that I repeatedly have to keep straight in my mind is that it's not all about me.

It's so easy to want to get my needs met by those I'm to lead without even being aware of it. But that will always end up creating havoc if I let that be my purpose. Instead my goal must be to do what will help them grow, increase their skills, stretch their decision making muscles and meet the goals of the company (or my parenting goals in the case of my children).

Repeatedly I've seen managers make the decision to do something that will make their employees like them instead of doing the right thing, and it always eventually comes back to haunt them. I have to remind myself often that as long as I'm respectful, fair, consistent and doing what I believe in my heart before God is the right thing - it's OK if people don't understand and don't like me. Periodically everyone in leadership isn't liked or appreciated; it comes with the territory. But over time people will see trustworthiness and respond. I've repeatedly been blessed with great working relationships with those I supervise and my 3 sons are truly gifts from God at whom I'm consistently amazed.

Interestingly, talking about these things in the abstract is always much easier than when it comes down to daily life. When you look at yourself, in your life leadership positions, how do you think you do when it comes to ensuring that it is about those that you lead instead of about you?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Peace doesn't come in a hurry

I continue to enjoy that study by Priscilla Schirer Discerning the Voice of God. A couple of weeks ago as I was doing homework in that study something really struck me and has remained at just the back of my consciousness since then. This was the point that Shirer made:

"Nothing takes God off guard. When we feel rushed and hurried to make a decision not rooted in a deep confidence of inner peace, God probably has not spoken. Nowhere in Scripture does God tell anyone to rush into making a decision. On the contrary, He patiently and persistently gives us clarity before requiring obedience. If you feel an overwhelming urge to act spontaneously, pull in the reigns."

I appreciate more than words can ever tell that God gives that deep confidence of inner peace.

Just today I had a situation where His peace is such a gift. It's in a relationship where there are intense problems and there has been tumult. I've been struggling and floundering in where to go and how to progress in this relationship. When I finally realized in my spirit the words I needed to speak today I could, with confidence. It's one of those situations where the consequences could be dire. But I was respectful and direct and know that I spoke the right thing. I've been mulling it over all weekend and finally have the right words and God's peace.

I'm reminded of the scripture from Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG):

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Life and relationships can be challenging but I'm so glad that I'm never alone. That God is always here to guide, comfort and give joy to my life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happiness and Self-Denial



Last Christmas I found an awesome book, Advent and Christmas with Fulton J. Sheen This book has an eloquence and depth that has helped myself and my family focus more on Jesus during the holiday season.

The following in an excerpt from this book:

Happiness does not come to those who want to know all, or to posses all, or to enjoy all; rather it comes to those who set limitations upon the satisfaction of self. A man, for example, cannot get the whole world into his hands, but he can wash himself of the world. Our powers of dispossession are greater than our powers of possession; there is a limit to what we can gain, but there is not limit to what we can renounce. In the end, the man who wants nothing is the man who has everything, for there is nothing that he desires…

To deny self is to refuse indulgence to lower desires, to put a restraint upon ourselves, to act differently from the way the sensual in our nature would lead us. Self-denial is the test of love, whether it be human or divine….There may be pain in self-denial for a moment, but pain in the pursuit of the highest is certainly more joyful than ease in the neglect of duty. The agony is self-denial is momentary, but the joy that flows from it is lasting.

Blessed Lord, give me the spirit of nonpossession and self-denial. Make the doing of your Word paramount over the pursuit of ease. Keep me from throwing myself at every fancy paraded before me, and help me to forego the desire to taste and touch the wonders of this world”

Excerpt from Advent and Christmas with Fulton J. Sheen compiled by Judy Bauer

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Stew



I'd purchased chicken legs because they'd been on a good sale but had been so busy I hadn't cooked them yet; and I had 3/4 can of leftover chicken broth in my 'fridge as well as about 1/2 can of leftover zesty jalapeño diced can tomatoes and some left over cooked pork sausage. So I came up with the recipe below. It's easy and can be made on the morning of a busy day. You can just come home and make brown rice to serve it over and a green salad and you've got a delicious, healthy meal. Both my kids and myself loved this one.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Stew

INGREDIENTS:
Large package chicken legs, washed & skin removed
4 carrots, washed and sliced into bite sized pieces
Celery-inside section that is leafy; diced up
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chicken broth
2 cups water
2 cans zesty jalapeño diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato washed and diced into bite size pieces
1 large yellow squash washed and cut into bite size pieces
1/2 lb cooked pork sausage
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon each seasoned salt, oregano, cumin

DIRECTIONS
Put everything except the squash into a large crock pot on high for around 6 hours.
Add squash and warm sausage (if you didn't just cook the sausage, warm in microwave) and continue cooking on low for about an hour.
Serve over brown rice.

Approximate nutritional information:
Calories: 700 calories for a serving that includes 3 chicken legs & around 2 cups of broth/veges over 1 full cup of brown rice
46 grams protein, 94 grams carbs, 16 grams fat

Friday, November 30, 2007

November Pay it Forward Book Exchange Winner


This month's winner is Cynthia over at Springmont Cottage blog.

I've already notified Cynthia and as soon as she gives me her address she will be sent her selected book,Goose in the Pond.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Honor


Are you feeling fractured and frazzled this Christmas Season?

For many the holidays bring a frenzied flurry of activities that leaves them anxious, discontent, lonely and tired.

At this time of the year there are always parties. For some these are the high point of the season; for these folks the parties bring out people all of whom are in a good mood. They find the decorations captivating; they see the night is dark but the fireplace and candles are bright - everything feels almost magical. For others these are just obligatory events on their long to do list.

Today as I was in the Word, I read a wonderful passage that gave me a different take on parties as well as some practical insight into handling holiday anxieties and loneliness. The passage is Psalms 91:14-16 (The Message paraphrase):

"If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God,
"I'll get you out of any trouble.
I'll give you the best of care
if you'll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times;

I'll rescue you, then throw you a party.

I'll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!"

God is calling us to Himself this Christmas Season.

He promises that if we will hold on to Him, take the time out of our too busy schedules for what really matters - getting to know Him and growing in our trust of Him - that He will take care of us. We don't have to be in charge of the universe running about getting a million things done and feeling all alone. He will be with us and He'll throw us a party.

This concept of party used in this scripture is one of honoring someone. God will honor us if we choose to devote ourselves to Him. Repeatedly we see this theme in scripture that as we follow after God, He will give us honor (John 12:16, 1 Samuel 2:30, Psalm 91:15).

I don't know about you but I much prefer the thought of experiencing the honor of God on my life this Christmas Season, than the idea of being a busy, exhausted, frazzled person. I've made a commitment to make sure that I make time to meditate on God and be in His word this season. Some other things can slide, but time in God's presence and in His Word is a must.




Sunday, November 25, 2007

Contentment vrs Discontent


I want to change.

I want to become a person of contentment. I don't want to be critical and quick to be dismayed when things go wrong; I've been both of these things too many times in my life to recount.

I'm thinking on a well loved passage written by the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11-13 (from The Message paraphrase):

I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

I want to live that way. My prayer is that by God's grace and power in me I can become like this.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hope


I'm hurting and feeling discouraged.

I know that Hope is always in God.

So I decided to feed myself some Word. I wish I could say that was my first response, instead of the chocolate binge I had last night. I also struggled last night with sleep and finally rose at 4:30AM; and I'm not a morning person.

The specific reason for my sadness is that I'm feeling rejected.

My son is home for just a very short visit from West Point. I picked him up at 11:30PM on Wednesday from the airport and will have to drop him off at 7PM on Saturday.

Because we spent Thanksgiving with my husband's daughter and family who live in the same time we did until a year ago, I offered my son to drop him off at a friend's after the feast so he could visit and I could return to the family visit. So he spent Thursday evening, night and Friday morning with his friends and then one of them dropped him off at his dad's mother to spend time with his dad and family and his dad gave him a ride home around 6PM last night (Friday). When he got home he said he needed to check some things and wanted to go to bed early because he'd gotten barely any sleep the last couple of nights. So I left him alone and went back to his room so we could hang out some around 6:40PM. He put down the top to his lap top when I came in - it looked like he'd been IMing someone. Basically I could tell he didn't want to talk or hang out with me. When I checked again at 8PM the door was closed and his light was out. I know this is normal, typically at 19 your parents aren't the people you want to spend time with. I remember being more into my friends than my family at that age.

But the truth of the matter is that even though I understand, I still feel hurt and rejected. I miss him so much while he's away at school and I was so excited about him coming home for a visit; but we really have not gotten to visit. I also know that the schedule at West Point is grueling, he doesn't have the fun and freedom that other college students have and that when he is home he is tired and wants to just have fun. But none of this knowledge changes how I feel.

So, now that I've vented, I want to look to the word to feed my thoughts. I went on Bible gateway and looked up the word Hope in the topical index. There were several scriptures provided but the one I chose to meditate on this morning was in the Psalms. I love the Psalms; they are so emotional and dramatic - just like me. I appreciate that I'm not the only one to be so intense and I take comfort and instruction from the Psalms. Here's the one I'm looking at this morning - Psalm 42:1-8 The Message:

1-3 A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek;
I want to drink God,
deep draughts of God.
I'm thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, "Will I ever make it—
arrive and drink in God's presence?"
I'm on a diet of tears—
tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long
people knock at my door,
Pestering,
"Where is this God of yours?"

4 These are the things I go over and over,
emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd,
right out in front,
Leading them all,
eager to arrive and worship,
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
celebrating, all of us, God's feast!

5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I'll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He's my God.

6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos,
to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day,
sing songs all through the night!
My life is God's prayer.

There is this theme throughout of looking to God. God is the source, He is who the author longed for as a deer would need water.

I can relate to the idea of being so caught up in the sadness, yet wanting to be in God's presence. I am captivated by how the author phrases these feelings: "I'm thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, "Will I ever make it—
arrive and drink in God's presence?"
I'm on a diet of tears"

It's interesting to me how I tend to try to feed my thirst other things when it's really God I'm desiring. Last night it was chocolate and that's definitely been a long standing unhealthy behavior - stuff the emptiness with comfort food. But I've also tried in my past to fill the hollow inside my soul with relationships. Neither work. It is only God that can fill the thirst.

I adore the feel of the words here, the beauty of them. How the author describes looking back over his life in the 4th verse as "emptying out the pockets of my life". I can relate to his feelings of thinking about how he used to be someone who led the way in the praises of God and now he's sitting there and crying. I think many Christians can relate to these feelings. We've known what it is like to praise and love God and all the wonderfulness that comes with that, yet we still find ourselves sometimes in the depths of sadness. I suppose these negative emotions are part of the human condition.

The author does point to another way of life. I love how he talks to himself to get himself on the right track. How the author asks himself in the 5th verse: "Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?" and then he provides himself with the solution: "Fix my eyes on God—
soon I'll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He's my God. " The author goes on to explain this process of fixing his eyes on God even more when in verse 6 he says "When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
everything I know of you". Then he goes on to say one of the things he does know of God; in verse 8 he proclaims: "God promises to love me all day,
sing songs all through the night!
My life is God's prayer. "

How encouraging to realize that my life too is God's prayer! That he cares about me and is intimately involved in my life.

The truth is here in the Word; focusing on God instead of the problem is the way to deal with sad feelings. Situations will happen that are not pleasing and are even painful. But my hope is not in this life, my hope is in God.



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving


Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving I wanted to spend some time thinking about the Holiday.

First off Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. I adore the entire concept of taking time out to consciously think about all we have to be thankful for and to celebrate the time together with friends and family. I like the way there are so many worthy opportunities to give to others at Thanksgiving through groups such as the local rescue missions.

About a year ago I found a great resource for assisting myself and my family with understanding the historical roots of Thanksgiving in America. It's an audio book, Thanksgiving a time to Remember, by Barbara Rainey. It's a dramatized presentation of the story of the pilgrims. The author has researched and found some journals and facts and put together a recounting of what the pilgrims went through leading up to Thanksgiving. It's moving and inspirational. It's great to listen to while preparations are being made for the meal or in the car during the drive to friends or family.

Here's a wonderful Thanksgiving type scripture passage that is one of my favorites. It's taken from 1 Chronicles 16:8-12 (The Message):

Thank God! Call out his Name!
Tell the whole world who he is and what he's done!
Sing to him! Play songs for him!
Broadcast all his wonders!
Revel in his holy Name,
God-seekers, be jubilant!
Study God and his strength,
seek his presence day and night;
Remember all the wonders he performed,
the miracles and judgments that came out of his mouth.


I want to take some time right now to simply list out some of the many things for which I am so grateful:

The greatest deal of all that I ever made - God gave me Jesus' holiness and He took my sin

God's patience with me

My husband - we found each other much later in life and I'm so grateful that we did

Each of my sons - they are incredible people

My health

My beautiful home here in the mountains

The hills & mountains behind my home that I can just go out my back door and hike

My young dog and hiking buddy that we got from the animal shelter last year

Recent opportunity to spend some time with old friends

Great neighbors

Our local church and the unique ministry and people there

New friends I am making

Free blogging

The fact that we always have enough money for all our needs

The Message version bible that I was given last year and am enjoying so much

The beautiful fall colors all around me

That my oldest son will be home for Thanksgiving!


I think it would be fun to compile the Thanksgiving lists of lots of people. Please write your list here of what you're thinking about being thankful for this Thanksgiving. What's your thankful for at Thanksgiving list?

When it's time for us to know, we will


When it comes right down to it, I'm not good at waiting for anything. I don't like waiting, it feels like a waste of time. I want to do something NOW.

I'm this way with God too.

Often I want to know what His plans for me are regarding specific situations right way; so I can get to work on it. In my head I know that He has the greater perspective and has the perfect timing and plan - but I just wish He'd hurry up!

As I'm working through the bible study workbook Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer I came across the following statement she makes that really spoke to me:

"Nothing takes God off guard. When we fell rushed and hurried to make a decision not rooted in a deep confidence of inner peace, God probably has not spoken. Nowhere in Scripture does God tell anyone to rush into making a decision. On the contrary, He patiently and persistently gives us clarity before requiring obedience. If you feel an overwhelming urge to act spontaneously, pull in the reigns."

I needed to be reminded of that today.

I've been praying for guidance concerning my career. Just over a year ago we moved to a small, mountain community and my prior job was just too far away to commute, plus I wanted more time with my sons. Due to the lower cost of housing in this community, after my husband and I purchased this home, there was some money left so I didn't have to go back to work right away. Right now I have enough money to make it for about another year; I might even be able to stretch it out to two.

As I'm looking toward the eventual return to work I'm thinking about what I want to do. My former career was one I loved but that took way too much time away from my family. It was awesome but extremely stressful. Since I'm now married, I do not have the need to make as much money as I did previously. I'm looking into if I'd like to teach. Yesterday I went to the local university's teacher informational meeting. I found that the world has drastically changed since I was in college and since the No Child Left Behind mandates 7 years ago, it requires much more specific education to become a teacher. I'm looking at needing to take 3 quarters of full time college before I could obtain a full credential to teach (and then I'd be making about 1/3 of what I made at my last job). So, me being me, I'm thinking that if I want to do this teaching thing I need to get going on it. That way I could go back part time for the next 5 quarters and get the coursework done before my money runs out and I'd be credentialed to teach right about the time I need to resume working.

But I'm not sure that this is the right thing for my family and myself. And, of course, I want an answer RIGHT NOW.

I'm thinking how sometimes God wants us to wait because of what He does in us during the waiting. That the process is part of what makes the end decision work.

But I still don't enjoy the waiting.

How about you? Are you good at waiting on God? Can you think of a time in your life when you struggled with waiting on God; how'd that situation turn out?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Legalism


Today I need to think through the implications of a conversation that I had with another Believer, a young man.

Usually when I hear the word "legalism" a picture of a judgmental religious person comes to mind. But, unfortunately, it is not always so.

Just today as I was talking to this sweet young man, I could see that he is struggling deeply with this issue. This young man wants so much to please God and is so worried about doing the wrong thing and not doing everything right, that he's in bondage. As we talked today I saw the inner turmoil and pain. I know that we each must walk our own path and that sometimes we must go through the inner struggle to arrive at our own truths so we can be steadfast. But I also know that sometimes God brings people across our paths so we can can provide some direction. I believe I was just in the right place at the right time to be able to talk with this young man today.

During the conversation I kept stressing that any time we believe we are hearing something from God we need to check it out with the bible, the written word of God. This young man was concerned that perhaps I was well meaning but in error and I approved of this thought - he should indeed not take what I or anyone else says at face value, but should compare it with scripture. Due to time and schedule constraints, we had to end our conversation. Afterward, as I was praying I came upon a scripture that I want to share with him. It's from the book of Romans, verses 1-11 (The Message version):

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

It helps to see this passage in context; in the 7th chapter of Romans the author, Paul, had been writing about the internal struggle we all have between doing what our flesh desires and what we know to be right. He talks in Romans 7 about how the law of what is right and wrong and all the things we are to do is heavy and hard upon us, but that Jesus can offer freedom. Then we come to these words above.

The law is all about doing the good and right thing, but it can be burdensome because we can not always keep it. In these first verses here it talks about how the law is like a "low-lying black cloud". It causes us to despair because we just are not able to always do that which is right. The more God sensitizes our spirits and removes those callouses, the more we see all that is really wrong with us. If that was where it ended, we would indeed be doomed to live under a heaviness (just as this young man I was speaking with today is dealing with).

Scripture here explains that the "law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature" is unable to lead us to that place of right doing that we desire to achieve by the law/right actions. The crux of the issue is, as said above, the "law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it". Sin, wrong actions/thoughts/motives, flows from a heart that is not good. Every human being has a heart that, on it's own, is not good; we have this propensity toward sin (even good people are selfish; ask their children, spouses or close friends! NO ONE is perfect all the time.) So, to really live in freedom, each of us needs heart healing - not law heaping! Not more rules put on top of other rules to show us the right way to act. This is certainly helpful to assist us in seeing the best way to live and to convict us of our need for God - but if it stops there we are still in that black cloud.

Thank God it doesn't stop there!

I love the way it is explained here: "God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. " No matter how long we've been a Christian it always comes back to Jesus. Once we've chosen to ask Jesus to be our savior, and God has re birthed our spirit and we have His spirit within us, we can simply cooperate with His work. The scripture above says that "instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us." God is working in those of us who choose to follow Him and we don't have to become discouraged. Just like it says in Philippians 1:6: "the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears." I want so much to share with this young man with whom I talked today that it is a process, we won't have it all together all the time and God is OK with that. As it says in the beginning of the passage above "Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud." We are not under condemnation; Christ is here with us helping us, not condemning us.

I also think that the scripture above points out a powerful and important truth that "
Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.
" When we are bound up in legalism, a set of things we must do and not do, the focus in on us and what we are doing/refraining from doing, instead of on God. The thing is we can be followers of Christ and still be led astray into legalism as this young man I spoke with today. He loves God and wants to do good so He's started focusing on all these actions, yet he messes up and then feels guilty. He's under that "low-lying black cloud". He needs to, instead, trust and cooperate with God's work in him.

How encouraging are these words: "
But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!
" It is very clear here that we "still experience all the limitations of sin"; but there is the implication that it is a process and that God, through Jesus, is "bringing you alive to himself".

We really have such a good deal in Christ; we can live in the "
spacious, free life
" and look forward to the ongoing process of God working in us and conforming us to His image. May we just be patient with both ourselves and others in this process.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

God's Grace


Lately I've been thinking a lot on the grace of God.

Routinely I'm reminded of my need for God's grace.

I think about all the voices in my life. Some voices bring condemnation. The voice of others as well as my own.

This past Sunday the voice in my mind was one of condemnation. The Holy Spirit convicted me of how I was being judgmental and God reminded me of Galatians 6:1-5 (See November 4 posting "It's easy to focus on fixing others when I need to fix me").

I read a post where the writer was condemning some preacher who'd been seeing prostitutes. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that this is sick behavior on the part of that pastor and made more horrific by the fact that he's supposed to be a spiritual leader. But what really hit me was that the author of the post actually made a statement to the effect that while he sometimes may make small errors he never makes moral mistakes - he doesn't do big things that he thinks are wrong because he has self control. I basically told him that I sure can't say that about me. I've done things that I believe are wrong. When it comes down to it I believe that we all have.

I read another post that was condemning Christians and saying that they are dumb, pushy and deceived. While pushy is not a term one would use to describe me; I can remember times I've behaved stupidly and I can remember times I have been deceived. I just keep thinking how much I need God's grace and how grateful I am that He gives it.

Today I've been thinking about that famous account of Jesus in John chapter 8. It's the one where the religious leaders brought a women they'd caught in adultery to the temple so they could humiliate her in front of her friends, acquaintances and Jesus. The typical punishment for her behavior would have been to have her stoned. I've always loved Jesus' response. He suggested that those who were without sin could cast the first stone. Scripture tells us that Jesus actually was without sin, but he didn't stone her. No one else stepped forward to cast a stone either. Jesus pointed out that no one condemned her and neither did He. He encouraged her to go her way and not continue to sin.

I'm so grateful that while God convicts us of our wrong doing he does not condemn us.

Bob Sorge, in his book Secrets of the Secret Place, explains the difference between conviction and condemnation this way:

"The purpose of the voice of condemnation is to push you away from His presence - that which is the very source of your victory. The purpose of the voice of conviction is to press you into the face of Christ."

I'm so grateful that God by His grace convicts me of my wrong doing but does not condemn me.

What attribute of God have you been thinking on lately?

Monday, November 5, 2007

The soul and Family


I'm captivated by the book I'm currently reading, Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore.

In his chapter "The Myths of Family and Childhood", Moore makes some points I've never really thought about. One of which he states this way:

" What if we thought of the family less as the determining influence by which we are formed and more the raw material from which we can make a life?"

What a liberating way to look at life!

Instead of seeing the misfortunes that may have come our way in our families as the reason we have specific problems, we can see all events as leading to the the person we can become. As I read this I'm reminded of a beloved bible passage in Romans 8:32; The Message paraphrase puts it this way:

That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Moore also had an interesting reflection on the place of family in reference to the individual's soul:

"The soul prospers in an environment that is concrete, particular, and vernacular. It feeds on the details of life, on it's variety, its quirks, and its idiosyncrasies. Therefore, nothing is more suitable for the care of the soul than family, because the experience of family includes so much of the particulars of life. In a family you live close to people that otherwise you might not even want to talk to. Over time you get to know them intimately. You learn their most minuscule, most private habits and characteristics. Family life is full of major and minor crises - the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce - all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It's difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul."

"If we don't grasp this mystery, the soulfulness that family has to offer each of us will be spirited away in hygienic notions of what a family should be. The sentimental image of family that we present publicly is a defense against the pain of proclaiming the family for what it is - a sometimes comforting, sometimes devastating house of life and memory."

For me these words of Moore brought recognition that I have definitely had a "hygienic notion" of what family should be. Neither my family of origin nor my current family lived up to the sentimental image. But Moore's concept here if full of acceptance. It offers a paradigm that allows me to look at the reality of life, memories, & family in a similar fashion to how I look at myths; archetypes to illustrate lessons I can grow from and be nourished by.

Very interesting food for thought.

How do you think family nourishes the soul?

Presidential Candidates


I've become convicted lately of how little I know about the current potential presidential candidates.

Because, most likely just like you, I don't have unlimited free time, I've searched for a simple way to find out where these people really stand on the issues. I mean, let's face it, everyone's political campaign you-tube/infomercial makes them sound awesome. Basically I believe that's because they all love our country and want to do a good job. But I want to find out what these candidates believe and how they will act in regard to issues I think are important.

I've found a great starting place for my inquiry: ontheissues.org. This site provides an unbiased, purely informational outline of where the candidates stand on issues of importance. The site uses quotes from the candidates and their voting history to arrive at their conclusions and you can follow back the quotes to the source information such as an interview, talk the candidate gave somewhere, etc.

As I'm looking into various candidates, I'll be posting what I like/dislike about them. These posts will always be labeled "Presidential Candidates". So if you're interested, you can find these posts to check them out via the Labels section on the left side of the blog.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's easy to focus on fixing others when I need to fix me


Isn't God merciful and good?! Aren't you glad for His patience with us? I am!!

I have this propensity toward noticing the faults of others. I sometimes find myself focusing on other's problem areas, especially if the person is close to me and their problem affects me. This morning I was doing that with my spouse. Not that I directly spoke with him, but in my mind I was contemplating this problem area of his and feeling poorly toward him because of it. In fact, most likely I wasn't even being all together too wonderful toward the poor guy because I had my mind on this problem area.

I went into church for Sunday worship and asked God to change my heart and help me focus on Him instead. A few times my mind came back to the subject and I'd pray for help for my husband. But then the Holy Spirit began working in my heart and I realized how ridiculous my focus was. I became convicted of how there are things in my life that I need to focus on cooperating with God to change in me. I began to remember how I'd learned the need to be responsible for myself, verses everyone else. I remembered how in times past it's been a pattern of mine to focus on fixing others when I need to be allowing God to work on me.


Just about a week ago I'd written here that God's shown me an area of my life that He wants to do a new work in. An area where I've had a stronghold for years. Somehow this week I never managed to get around to spending time meditating on some verses the Holy Spirit had led me to in the Word to deal with my problem area. It's as if I've not only been avoiding talking with God or being in His Word regarding this problem area of mine, but I haven't been able to get myself to look at the situation. Interesting that now here I am on a Sunday choosing to focus on some problem area of my poor husband and to obsess on that.

The Holy Spirit brought the verses in Galatians 6:1-5 to my mind; here they are in The Message paraphrase:

1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Don't these verses speak directly to me?! Sink myself into what He's given me to do instead of focusing on others and take responsibility for my own life.

Are you like me and find that it's easy for you to focus on the faults of others, when you need to cooperate with God's work on you?

Friday, November 2, 2007

November 2007 Pay it Forward Book Exchange


A reminder on how this works.

To enter, just post a comment here and include the title of one of the two books described below. Leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. You can enter until midnight November 29, 2007. On November 30, the last day of the month, I will randomly pick a winner. (Please note that all that is meant here by random is that I'll write all the names on small pieces of paper, put them in a bowl, mix it up and choose one out.) I will contact the winner to obtain a mailing address to send the book to.

I will post the name of November's Pay it Forward Book Exchange winner by December 3, 2007. The winner will be mailed the book chosen from the two choices below. There will be one winner chosen each month.

November's choices:

The Goose in the Pond by Earlene Fowler
If you're into cozy mysteries, this is a great read. She's one of my favorite mystery writers. The book is written in the first person style and holds your attention to the last page. As in all her books, you find yourself liking the main character and immersed in the mystery.



The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
This is a long time favorite of mine that I re read periodically. It's about a senior demon's letters to a junior demon. It's an interesting fiction read that makes me aware that I need to be of sober spirit and on the alert because our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring llion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Pay It Forward Book Exchange


I got this idea from the overwhelmedwithjoy blog. I liked it so much that I decided to do the same thing here.

Most all of us love to read and get “new-to-us” books, right? And if you’re anything like me, you love winning things (what a rush), not to mention getting fun stuff in the mail! So here’s what this book exchange is all about:

1) Starting in November 2007, on the first day of each month I'll post an entry about a book to give away to a lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). The books will always be from my two favorite categories of books: Cozy mystery or Spiritual Enhancement. There will be two books, one from each category, to choose from each month. These are all books that I've read and enjoyed. Should you win, the book you receive may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used and will probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.

2) Details on how you can enter to win will be listed below.

3) Just post a comment under the blog entry on this site for Pay it Forward Book Exchange for the current month, with the title of the book from that month's choice that you'd like to try to win. Then, on the last day of each month I will randomly choose a winner. (Please note that all that is meant here by random is that I'll write all the names on small pieces of paper, put them in a bowl, mix it up and choose one out.) So, for each month you can enter the drawing until the second to the last day of the month and then on the last day of the month I will pick the winner.

4) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway and you have your own blog I ask that you in turn host a drawing to give away a book to one of your readers, after you’ve had a chance to read it (let’s say, within a month after you’ve received the book). If you mail the book out using the media/book rate that the post office offers it’s pretty inexpensive. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating the book to your local library or shelter after you're done with it.

5) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay it forward" giveaway at any time this month, feel free to grab the button above to use on your own blog. Just let Overwhelmed over at http://overwhelmedwithjoy.blogspot.com/ know so she can publish a post on her blog plugging your giveaway and directing her readers your way! Please also leave a comment here so people can go to your site from this one.

So there you have it, the Pay it Forward Book Exchange, designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!

I love to read



I love to read.

Recently I read about a "Baby steps" reading challenge to read 3 books during October - December 2007. I found out about this challenge at : nattiechallenge.blogspot.com

I already had a list of books I wanted to read so I picked 3 from that list that I have on hand and these are my reading list for the rest of this year. You can read all about this challenge on my side bar to the left.

These is my 3 book list and why I chose them:

Duty First by Ed Ruggero
I started reading this book in October and am just about finished. The subtitle of the book is "A year in the life of West Point and the making of American Leaders". My oldest son is in his second year at West Point and I found this book and wanted to learn more about what he's going through.

Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
My husband gave this to me last March for my Birthday and I've been meaning to read it. I started it last month but found I do better reading one book at a time so I set it aside until I finish the first book here.


Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
My husband's daughter and her husband gave this to him for his Birthday in September. The husband said it's one of the best books he's read. Since my husband and I always have a book we're reading we decided to read this one. I haven't started it yet but the plan is to read it by the end of this December.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Taming requires patience


I just finished watching the DVD My Best Friend with my two sons. It's a throughly delightful movie!

There's a quote in the movie from the book, The Little Prince used in reference to the subject of friendship. The quote was:

"if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
To me, you'll be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world …"

The movie made me think about this quote.

I think in order to be someone's friend we all need to be tamed; to be taught how to act right and be their friend. I think in order to have friends we have to be willing to take the time to tame people; to put up with their annoyances and teach them what we want and need.

To be patient; with both them and ourselves.

What do you think "taming" means?





Where do I put me in the lineup?

All around me I see messages, some blatant and others not so obvious.

The messages tell me that I'm important and that I need to take care of me first and that I deserve, for the most part, anything I desire.

This simply isn't true!

Want to know why I think these messages are all wrong? At the simplest level these messages are wrong because they just plain don't work. At a higher level these messages are wrong because they go against what Jesus Christ teaches.

I've never ever personally experienced or heard of anyone else who could tell me how putting themselves first or living for their own pleasures brought them peace, joy or happiness. I know, from my own selfish blunders, that putting me first in the marriage relationship is a sure way to ruin everything. I'm finding repeatedly as I "suck it up" a bit and try to seek to do things for my husband and to please him, that two things occur. The first is that peace reigns in our home. The second is that my husband tries more and more to do things for me and/or to please me. I also know that when I give myself whatever I want all the time, be it food or anything else, that those "things" I wanted so badly fail to bring satisfaction.

Then there's the fact that I accepted quite gladly the salvation of Christ. I made the trade - my sin for His holiness - my acceptance of His sacrifice in my place on the cross. Part of this acceptance was that I agreed to make Him Lord of my Life to become His follower. Now I know that following Christ is a process filled with His grace and mercy as I fail, but it does mean that I follow Him verses me. One of Jesus statements that I come back to frequently (because I need to change the way I think) is John 12:24-26:

24-25 "Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.

26 "If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you'll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment's notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

(This is from The Message paraphrase)

So I've got to, by God's grace and mercy and power, learn to die to my self. Does this mean that I deprive myself and don't take care of me? I don't think so. In fact I think that I have to be able to ensure that I get legitimate needs met and take care of myself in a healthy manner to be able to live in relationship with others.

I have some ideas, but I'm not totally sure what all it means to die to myself. I am certain that it means that life doesn't work when I'm the center of the universe, when it's all about me. But what else does it involve? What do you think?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thankfulness


This morning the pastor was making a point and referred to something in Psalm 100. Since the Psalm is short, I went ahead and read it. As I sat there reading the words my heart began to rejoice within me at their beauty:

1-2 On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn't make him.

We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

4
Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.

Thank him. Worship him.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,

loyal always and ever.

Psalm 100 (The Message)

God is indeed all powerful and generous and good. I am so thankful for all He's given me. I'm so thankful that He is loyal and I can always count on Him. When I go outdoors and see the magnificent world He has created I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I'm awed that He lets me into His presence.

Trusting your friends


I like the BBC "Miss Marple" series. My family is puzzled as to why since they find these boring but I enjoy them.

Last night as I was watching one it hit me how show after show you see how people really appreciate Miss Marple's friendship. Of course it's just a mystery show and all but what struck me was that she always takes her friends seriously and believes them. When they express to her their concerns she does not brush them off. If they think they've witnessed a crime and the police and/or others think they're being imaginative, Miss Marple believes in them. You hear her saying things like "you think that something is wrong here and I know that you're not a fanciful person so of course there's a problem".

What a wonderful quality in a friend. A person with this characteristic is one with whom others would feel safe enough to share their concerns.

I want to be like that for the people in my life. I want to take the time to really listen to them, take them seriously when they have a concern and not just offer quick-fixes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I want to be like Paula


As mentioned previously, I've really been enjoying working through a bible study workbook ("Discerning the Voice of God" by Priscilla Shirer) with a group of women at church. As I was doing the homework this week I read the following statement by Priscilla Shirer and had one of those "yeah preach it sister" moments:

"God has given us a combination of scriptural guidelines and freedom. Each believer must determine what God would have her do personally. The Holy Spirit knows your stage of spiritual development and will direct you accordingly. His job is to instruct you in the way you should go and give you details concerning the issues of your life." After this statement she goes on to talk about how we should neither press upon others our specific convictions or freedoms in those areas where scripture is not outstandingly clear and we each must do as the Holy Spirit leads us personally.

Part of why this meant so much to me was because, like everyone else, I've experienced that yucky "Christian condemnation" that makes us Believers so attractive to those around us. As I read this I was reminded of an incident that happened to me a few years ago.

I have a good friend Paula. My youngest son had a good friend I'll call Ben. Ben's mom I'll call Susan. Now Susan was very intent on being a godly woman. She was diligent about what her children could watch on movies and such, what they could read, even what they could eat. She home schooled her children and the family rarely missed, if ever, going to church together. Paula and I were both single moms at the time. I had a demanding job that I loved but which required an enormous amount of time/energy/creativity. But God blessed me through that job and I was able to support my family. However, I often felt that "mother guilt". You know if you've ever been there exactly what I'm talking about - our clothes were always washed but the clean ones never made it out of the laundry basket until we grabbed them out to wear, my family always ate dinner together but too often it was procured from fast food establishments, I made sure that my children made the straight A standard but couldn't tell you what their homework was about, I didn't quite make it to every school awards assembly or performance due to work but I did make it to most.

Well one Sunday after church my son was gonna have his pal Ben come to our place and Susan was delighted because this would give her and her hubby some much needed alone time since she'd managed to farm out all 3 of their offspring. However, unlike the homes her other children would be going to, before Ben entered my home Susan felt the need to have a discussion with me. It just so happened that my friend Paula was sitting beside me that day while Susan enumerated all the things she did not allow her Ben to do because, she, Susan loved God and of course children shouldn't do these things. Apparently Susan wanted to ensure that I didn't corrupt poor Ben (BTW did I mention that Ben was 12 years old at the time? Did I mention that I knew both Ben and his sister well because I'd taught them in volunteer situations at the church for the past several years and Susan never volunteered to help with anything?). As Susan went on and on I kept noting in my mind that I let my beloved son do all of these things that Susan insisted were bad and her son should never be around. It's hard to explain but somehow the whole thing felt really condemning from Susan to me. I would have thought it was just me but when Susan had finally left and Ben and my son went off to play at bit before we left church to go home, Paula turned to me and said that she was sure glad that Susan had finally stopped talking because she'd been about to slap her!

Paula volunteered with kids at church too and really cared about both them and their parents. She's outrageous, irreverent and funny. But one of her best qualities is that she accepts people just as they are. She practices Love and Acceptance . She enjoys people right where they're at and embraces them being themselves.

Not everyone is social


At this stage in the game of life I'm into self acceptance - I am who I am.

One of the things I'm not is very social. Oh I like people all right and, when I get to know them, I enjoy people. But I just really suck at the getting to know them part. Making Friends isn't easy for me.

This fact of my lacking social skills hit me afresh last night at this "appetizers with the principal" thing at my son's middle school. First of all I most likely wouldn't even attend such an event because I've gone to the "breakfast with the principal" thing (they alternate and do an evening, then a morning, event every other month) this year and once a year is enough for me to feel informed. But last year the PTA ladies asked me to take notes at the one I did attend and I said that if they ever needed some help, just let me know (although I'm not so social I'm still basically a decent, helpful sort). So, I ended up taking notes at all the meet with the principal events as well as the PTA meetings. Then I noticed that when the beginning of the year paperwork came home this year that my name was listed as secretary on the PTA board - how'd that happen?! I guess it's an example of that no good deed goes unpunished kind of thing.

Anyway so there I was at the appetizers and smooze with your child's middle school administrative people. Only remember, I smooze not. To make matters worse, my understanding was that the event was from 6:30-7:30PM and my son (who should appreciate that I'm doing all this at his school but actually who could care less) is at football practice which ends at 7:30PM. The practice is less than a block away but I'd told him to wait and let me pick him up because it's dark by that time and there aren't any street lights in the area. The smooze fest started on time I guess, lots and lots of people were there eating and talking. But, and this is what I mean when I say I'm not very social, the REAL event didn't start until 7:10PM and I just kept thinking about the fact that I had to leave by 7:30PM. Fortunately I saw that it wasn't going to end on time so before the principal ever started his ramble I'd set up with this other PTA gal to finish taking the notes for me when I left.

But I was bored and uncomfortable that whole pre-event (the event being the principal giving his talk in my mind) time. I forced myself to walk around and smile and try (most of the time in vain) to think of something to say to those few people I knew in the crowd. I've only lived here a year and it's a small community so most of these folks appear to have known one anothers' families for years and gone through school together. I couldn't stop this feeling in the back of my mind that "normal" people would enjoy this kind of situation. Good food they didn't have to fix and people to hang out with and visit. I spent most of that 40 minutes sitting by myself in the back of the room once I'd ran out of people to say hello to. Worse to my "credit" was that I actually know I enjoyed watching these people interact with one another more than I would have enjoyed talking with them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God's Encouragement


Today God showed me that an area in my life where I knew I had a weakness is actually a stronghold *. Then He encouraged me with this absolutely delightful scripture in Psalm 119:25-30 (from The Message Paraphrase) :

I'm feeling terrible—I couldn't feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life's dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
God, don't let me down!
I'll run the course you lay out for me
if you'll just show me how.

I adore how this passage seems to speak what my heart says.

As I become aware of my deficiency as well as my utter powerlessness to do anything about it, when I come out of denial and recognize the depth of my own depravity - I feel terrible! Yet how awesome that as the Psalmist said about God "
When I told my story, you responded".

How awesome that He is available to train me in His "
deep wisdom" and He will help me "understand these things inside and out". What hope this gives me that things don't have to stay the way they are! God is showing me the truth and how to change. Then I read on and see that it is by His Word, the bible, that I will be built up again. Not my thoughts and reasoning (I've tried that plenty of times to no avail). That it is in His goodness that He will " grace me with your (His/God's) clear revelation" so that I can understand His word.

I love the line here "
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere"; this whole concept of Him not letting me go my own way that leads to nothing. I want but to go on His paths; the "road to Somewhere".

I want to think some this week on what it means for me to "
post your (His/God's) road signs at every curve and corner".

I am captivated by the passionate language here - "
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me". That's my heart's desire and as I read this the desire within me grows. Like the writer of this Psalm, I look to God alone to show me how.

I'm so grateful that He is willing.

* If you'd like to learn more about what are spiritual strongholds and spiritual warfare, you can sign up for a bible study below. Please note that your email will only be used to send you the bible study.



Scholastically motivating teens


Children don't come with how-to manuals. Each child is different. Every parent sees things differently.

But, for what it's worth, this is how I manage my two sons still at home with regards to school work. I make the standard clear and then let them do things their way and as long as they ethically continue to meet the standard. My thought is that, if they're meeting the standard, then what they're doing must be working for them even if it's not the way I would do it. If they don't make the standard, then I get involved and help them manage their time/requirements.

I have one who's in 8th grade and another in 9th. The standard is that they must get all As. They're in California public schools and they're both really bright so there's no reason for them not to meet make all As. Up until this past semester report card (which came today - hence my journaling about it) they've met the standard.

I think my middle son (there's two at home but a third off at college) spends too much time on the computer playing games but I've resisted getting into it. As long as he spends time daily in the bible, does his chores, attends church and gets all As, I let him him manage his own time. But today when we received his report card in the mail I found that he has a C in Honors Geometry and a B in Honors English. I know it's his first semester of high school and I know he's in football, but he knew the standard and he's spent plenty of time on the computer. So today we started our new plan:

Each day he brings me his math and English notebooks and shows me what's due. For math he has set homework every day. Now I've got to tell you that I in no way remember geometry but I can check to ensure his work is actually completed and has a semblance of reasonableness. I can also have him bring up his class on Edline on the computer and see how he's doing on his tests. If he has As on each test, I'll assume his method of studying is sufficient, if not, we can discuss methods he must try implementing. For English he has a word of the day every day and once a week he is tested on these words cumulatively. So we will now review all the words daily. He will also show me papers that are due and again go on Edline on the computer to verify his progress in class. I now control when he is able to be on the computer.

My aim here is to eventually fade myself out again. I firmly believe that my sons need to learn to be independent. I wasn't involved in my oldest son on such a level and he did very well in school and is doing well in college now. But each person is different and I think my middle son had two things going on: 1 - Adjustment to high school and extracurricular activities demands, 2- Testing to see if I really meant what I said. If he gets all As on the next report card, he can take the reigns again and keep them as long as he continues to meet the standard.

I was thinking he'd be upset at me. I'm glad to find that his attitude was more along the lines of sheepish and he wasn't at all belligerent. I pray that he will become independent and responsible.

There is one book that I've found helpful for this teenagers-at-home season of my life. The book is Boundaries with Teens

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's about focus


Today as I was going about my daily life I was thinking about how blessed I am, how grateful I am for my life. I found myself going through a list of all the wonderful things in my life; the beautiful mountains behind our home that I can hike, each of my sons - all three are different and each of them is a great person, how my husband John brought me a bouquet of flowers this weekend and then left a single bud in a small heart shaped vase on the windowsill, how much I enjoy my time in the bible, the interesting books I'm reading right now, how much I'm enjoying our puppy that we got from the pound last year, the list went on and on.

Then I thought about how, if someone were to describe me, I might not sound so great. I'm in my third marriage, I'm overweight, I'm on the shy side. As I thought about it, I most obviously have made plenty of life mistakes and I'm certainly not one of those people who would say I'd never change a thing because, given the chance, there are things I would do differently. But I'm grateful for my life today. I can see the grace and mercy and goodness of God.

But I also realized it's all about where I choose to focus. I can look at the mistakes I've made and learn from them and move on or can stay stuck. I can choose where I let my mind stay. I can choose to develop a lifestyle of Gratitude. I'm reminded of the verse in Philippians 4:8:

You'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

This is a quote from The Message paraphrase and I really appreciate the way it reads. I want this to be how I life my life.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brunch Bagel Spread


Here's a delicious recipe we found for a spread on your bagels. With some fruit on the side it makes an awesome brunch meal! (Of course, I always like Cooking with Avacados)

BAGEL SPREAD

Ingredients
2 ripe California Avocados
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 tsp onion powder
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice

Directions
  1. Crumble feta cheese into a bowl.
  2. Peel and chop up avocado and mix with feta cheese.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Let sit for 30-50 minutes at room temperature to let flavors blend.
Makes enough for 6 generously topped bagels.
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