Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Motivates You?

What motivates you to perform a good deed? To place a check in the offering plate? To volunteer to teach a Sunday School class?

I know there have been times I've been motivated act a certain way merely to maintain a godly Christian persona. I've been more concerned about pleasing (yes, even impressing) those around me instead of honoring God. Self-righteousness is something I struggle with as I can barely remember the days before my conversion. "How can people live such wretched lives," I wonder to myself as I look at the chaos around me. But their sin is the same sin that affects me. I may not be controlled by it thanks to God's grace, but it still taints my life and my motives.

I read this today:
"If our human obedience or morality isn't motivated by gratitude for God's grace, it is very dangerous.  If not rooted in gratitude for God's love for us in Christ, morality is deadlier to the soul than immorality.  Why?  Remember that Jesus said it is those who are lost, who know they need a physician, that he came to save (Luke 19:10).  Those who excel at the sort of obedience listed above may not see their need for a Savior; their hearts may be hardened and unfazed by God's grace . . . A society riddled with immorality will not be a pleasant place to live, but a society riddled with self-congratulatory morality will be satanic and resistant to grace."  Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson (pg. 44)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lies on the Playground

“Truth is the agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God.” Jonathan Edwards
Abby and I volunteered at our local elementary school today.  The kindergarten class needed extra help during lunch and recess so I decided to give it a shot.  I was at a disadvantage as I didn't know much about the schedule and hadn't met any of the students or teachers before today.  I'm not sure I actually provided much assistance.  The lunch room was incredibly noisy.  So noisy it was difficult to focus.  I saw several little ones putting their hands over their ears as it was way more stimulation than they could handle.  Abby loved the noise and the children and let out a few shrieks in her little 11-month old voice.

It was a sunny warm day so the kids released their pent up energy on the playground after lunch.  I had worked with 5-17 year-olds in my mentoring program, but was never around this many kindergartners at one time.  They were so rambunctious.  I became exhausted watching them (perhaps carrying Abby in the hot sun was a factor also).  There was some pushing and tussling; the normal kids being kids.

I found it quite interesting that I was a lied to a few times.  Once by two little boys who told me they were allowed to play out on the soccer field, when I later learned this was not the case.  They obviously knew I wouldn't know the difference.  And another little boy didn't want to get into line so he told me he wasn't part of the class, which was a lie.  Isn't it amazing how little hearts are full of lies at such an early age?  They desire to manipulate and deceive without being taught to do so (although some do have negative role models).
The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Psalm 58:3

We are all born depraved sinners going our own selfish way; living a life full of lies and hypocrisy.  For those of us who have since been converted, we still sometimes revert to our lying ways.   Our church is beginning a ladies' study on the book of 1 John.  I've been re-reading it numerous times so I can begin to dig deeper into the meaning of passages.  Tonight this verse popped out at me:

If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?I John 4:20

I'll admit I've been guilty of this.  I would never outwardly state I hate a brother or sister, but there have been times I've harbored hatred and unforgiveness toward them.  And there are times I've seen another Christian sin and felt hatred toward them, not because I was affected, but because they dared commit such a heinous act.  I realize we as Christians should hate sin, but I have hated the sinner when they happen to be a professing Christian.  With God's help I want to work on replacing the lies with forgiveness, prayer and genuine love. 

May I say with Solomon:

For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. [and my heart] Proverbs 8:7

Today I'm linked up with:

Botanica Garden

We took an overnight trip to Wichita over the weekend.  It happened to be Free Museum Day so we spent a very short time, unfortunately, at the Botanica Gardens in Wichita.  The New Children's Garden is lovely.  In a few years Abby will be able to enjoy it.  On this trip she had more fun watching the other children play. 

The gardens were meant to be a relaxing place.  There were many spots for people to sit down and enjoy the beauty surrounding them.  Instead, those who sat down seemed to have their smart phones in their hand and were glued to them. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: The Runner's Devotional

Discipline is required of runners.  I am not a runner, but I thought this book, The Runner's Devotional:  Inspiration and Motivation for Life's Journey . . . On and Off the Road,  would encourage me to begin running.  I've since realized that I'm just too tired to run and I'll have to wait until little Abby is a bit older before I attempt to run.  In the meantime I will continue to walk, cycle and occasionally swim.

This devotional book ties together the spiritual analogy of preparing for life's race with the physical training required to become a disciplined runner.  It emphasizes setting goals and developing self-control to adhere to these goals.  Each weekly chapter offers a spiritual thought tied with the running theme followed by an experience shared by a runner.  The "Think it Through" section encourages the reader to reflect on some personal questions.  An "On Running" tip that offers practical physical advice on diet or training.  The week's journey ends with a journal section and a running log.  I personally prefer a devotional that divvies up a portion per day, but authors, Dana Niesluchowski and Dave Veerman, note that the chapters can be read in one setting or divided up over a week.  Also note the amount of space provided for the running log varies by chapter, but certain chapters seem a bit skimpy.

This devotional is definitely inspiring, but is not an in-depth Bible study.  There is a heavy emphasis on increasing your physical stamina in addition to boosting your personal self-confidence.  I think you could probably give it to friends and family members who consider themselves to be a Christian without them being offended.   I found the personal stories shared by dozens of runners humorous, motivating, and at times sad.  The devotional ends with a scripture index and a then comprehensive training plans for runners wanting to tackle 5ks up to marathon.

While reading this devotional, I came across the Principle of Disuse (see page 320).  This states:  "If you stop training, your state of fitness will drop to a level that meets only the demands of daily use."  Amazing how this applies to our spiritual state of "fitness" also. If we stop exercising our faith and if we skip studying the Word, our spiritual fitness is affected.  When we're called to run God's race, we fall short because we weren't spending the necessary time training daily.  

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.  I Timothy 4:8

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday Facts

Fact:  It's difficult to sit through any type of sporting event with an 11 month old child, especially one who likes to poke and grab the poor young man sitting next to her.

Fact:  It's much easier when said child falls asleep in the middle of a noisy arena with thousands of screaming bull-riding fans.

Fact:  I tried to run with Abby in the stroller this evening, but it sounded as if the wheels would fall off so I stopped.  Maybe I'll try again next year.

Fact:  I wish humans had plugins that could be downloaded.  I seem to be lacking the Organization plugin.  Or does that come as a gene?

Fact:  The longer I'm a mom, the crunchier I get.

Fact:  I have a jar of homemade infused antibacterial cleaner stewing in my laundry room.

Fact:  I also have a maiden jar of sauerkraut stewing in my laundry room.

Fact:  Tomorrow I will be trudging through the woods searching for a deer my husband thinks he shot.  

Fact:  I had the opportunity to pound play the piano at church yesterday!  It was the first time in several years after moving away from my home church almost 3 years ago.

Fact:  I still miss Wisconsin and my church family there.  They continue to influence my life more than they will ever know.

Fact:  I spend too much time trying to prepare for and plan for my future. 

Fact:  My weaknesses make me rely on God even more.  

Today I'm linked up with:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Project 64: Sepia

I won't be near my laptop tomorrow so I suppose I have to post my sepia entry. This was actually taken last week, but I didn't seem to have anything else that was a better match.

Visit Project 64 for additional sepia entries.

Paralyzing Fear

Has fear ever gripped you and wrapped it's tight chains around your heart?  I've had a few instances where I've been fearful for my physical safety. Two instances stand out in my mind.  One was a time when I was in a shower and couldn't hear my potential attacker breaking into my house (he never showed up) and another time I was very fearful in a tent when I was certain a neighbor was going to shoot us (that obviously didn't happen either). More often I'm fearful about the future, about personal finances, about a collapse of our economy, about a career change, about raising a child, about what others think of me.  It seems I overcome one fear and another one pops up.  And, believe me, I'm not a fearful, worrying type.  But I do have my moments.

When I am fearful it's wonderful to reflect on the ways God has protected me in the past.  (I really should begin a journal where I note each specific fear as they arise and then note how God provided and protected me.  I forget too quickly.) God's Word and prayer are great weapons to use to combat fear.  I love Psalm 121, a beautiful psalm of encouragement reminding us of God's constant presence and oversight of our life.  Verse 7 says:  "The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul." The Hebrew word for "evil" seems to mean all physical evil, such as wild animals and unruly men (women too, I suppose).  And then the verse ends with the promise that God will preserve your soul.  How comforting is that?  This promise is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 10: 28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Tabletalk Magazine had an article in the September issue entitled "What if or if God?" The author, J.R. Vassar, asks if we will let fear keep us from obeying God.  Here is an excerpt:
When it comes to the issue of fear, we all face the same question.  Will I choose to quench the Spirit by cowering under the tyranny of the what if:  What if I fail?  What if I suffer?  What if I go without?  If God is prompting you to cross the street and engage a neighbor or to cross the ocean and invest your life among an unreached people, will the what if paralyze you?  If God is stirring your heart toward radical, future-shaping generosity, will the what if have the final say?  Will you let an unsanctified imagination stir up potential scenarios that argue you out of obedience to the Scriptures and the Spirit's promptings?
 He ends with this sentence:

If God is holy, sovereign, wise, good, powerful, and abounding in love, let us resolve to no longer ascribe greater authority to our fears than we do to God. 
I don't want fear to rule my life, but rather to be filled with faith in my Sovereign God who knows what is best for me and will give me grace to face any future trials.   I want to eradicate the "what ifs" in my life as I learn to lean more and more upon Savior.  What about you?
  I'm linking up with:

Beholding Glory

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weary Flesh, Brimming Brain

"Much study is wearisome to the flesh." Ecclesiastes 12:12
Today I attended an all-day conference on breastfeeding.  It was superb and may be the impetus I needed to assist new moms in their desire to learn about breastfeeding.  My brain is bursting with information.  Ever get that feeling?  I learned so much, but am afraid some of it is going to leak out (pardon the pun).

It was the first time I had been away from Abby for about eight hours.  She survived and actually did quite well with her little playmates.  By the time I arrived home to see her I was just itching to go for a walk.  My legs ached and my brain felt stretched beyond capacity.  A brisk walk pushing a 20+ lb. baby in a stroller did the trick. 

I thought of this verse in Ecclesiastes as I was walking.  Solomon must have known what it was like to spend hours studying all God created.  I can't imagine the wisdom he was gifted with, but yet he recognized that too much study is just plain wearisome.  My solution was to get outside and breathe some fresh air.  It rejuvenated my spirit and reminded me how good God is.  I won't begin to surmise how Solomon may have relaxed after too much studying.

Do you know of someone who is spending too much time indoors?  Do their eyes have a dull glazed look to them?  Is their skin pasty and pale?  Invite them to join you in walking, riding, or cycling through God's creation.  Fresh air and a break for tired brains can work wonders.  Enjoy the beauty of God's creation . . . before it's too cold for man or beast. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Downtown Car Show

Abby and I walked to a car show on Saturday.  I'm really not that interested in cars, but do enjoy looking at the classic ones from bygone days.  Abby enjoyed people-watching and attracting attention.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Living What I Believe

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." James 1:22-25

I learn, but do not retain what I learn because I fail to apply this new-found wisdom.  I'm distracted by life's busyness and the nothingness that wastes so much of my time.  I have a hunger to learn more about doctrine and God's ways, but little time to study.  I must be content in studying bits here and there and purposely seeking to understand God's ways and attributes through my daily walk with Him:  in nature, in the godly music playing in the background, in my relationships, in the mundane circumstances, and in the answered prayers.

Today I had a chance to read a few pages from Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology:

You are what you believe.  If your life does not adorn your biblical doctrine, it suggests not that the Bible's doctrine is untrue but that at some profound level, that truth has not taken hold of you yet.  It ought to be our aim to out-live, out-rejoice, and out-die the critics of theology and doctrine - to adorn our doctrine with our lives.  -J. Ligon Duncan III

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Project 64: Blue Violet

I really struggled to find this color. I think the tips of the flower are fairly close to blue violet. I didn't want to use a flower, but couldn't seem to find anything else.

To view additional entries visit Project 64.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Myth of Full-Time Ministry

Have you ever felt just a little disappointed that God failed to call you to serve Him as a missionary, pastor, or pastor's wife?  Have you ever felt like you were inferior to these "chosen" men and women of God.  I confess I have.  These spiritual giants have sometimes made me feel a bit insignificant in the kingdom of God.  Surely they must have special seats in Heaven right next to the throne.

But wait a minute, where is full-time ministry mentioned in the Bible?  Of course some are called to be pastors/elders and others are chosen to be deacons, but what about the rest of us?  Does God view as us as members of a lesser class, the "lay-people," since our salary doesn't come from a church or mission board?  Not at all.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
Unfortunately, too many Christians have tried to elevate the status of those who are pastors/elders and missionaries.  I certainly believe men who hold a spiritual leadership position should be respected and their physical needs met through the giving of tithes and offerings by the church body.  But keep in mind that the Bible clearly teaches that we are called to serve the Lord in all that we do.  Yes, Christian plumbers, cops, nurses, stay-at-home moms were all commissioned into full-time service the moment they were converted.   We are called to share the Gospel and to use the spiritual gifts God has blessed us with to benefit our local church body.  There is no secular or sacred in God's kingdom; all we do is service for our King.

I found this paragraph from a Christianity Today article fascinating:
Greek words meaning "layperson" existed at the time the New Testament was written. But the writers chose not to use them. "Laikos," meant of the common people. And "idiotes" meant non-expert. But the New Testament uses neither term to describe believers. Instead, it calls us "laos Theou," the people of God. Every true Christian belongs to the "laos." But as the first century ended, one of the church fathers, Clement of Rome, began dividing the church into classes, calling the non-ministering members "laikos" (laity). Now, some twenty centuries later, the "laity" terms, firmly embedded in our religious language, shape the way we think.

I may not receive a salary from a church or mission board, but I have a Boss who is keeping track of my time sheet.  Right now He is monitoring my activity to make sure I'm truly giving Him my best.  You see, I've been in full-time Christian ministry since I was seven years old.

What about you?  Has God called you to serve Him in some thankless mundane job?  He is not ignoring your service.  He knows your frustrations.  Do not be ashamed of your full-time calling. 
" For he that is least among you all, the same is great." Luke 9:48b

I'm linked up with:
Beholding Glory

No Excuse for Flabby Muscles

Jeff and I were talking recently about how much easier it was to be single.  I love being married, but it was easy to become selfish when I was single.  It didn't matter what my spouse wanted to do because I didn't have one.  Life was mostly about me and there were fewer responsibilities.  The money I earned was mine to do with as I pleased.  I could eat what and when I wanted. I could travel whenever I felt like it, budget permitting.

Marriage changed everything.  It was no longer about me, it was about "us."  Everything I did affected him and vice versa.  Gradually our habits changed to accommodate one another:  hobbies, sleep patterns, temperature of the house, decorating styles and so much more.  Along with change came challenges.   Sometimes I disagreed with his way of doing things.  Sometimes he thought he was right and he wasn't.  Okay, I've been wrong on numerous occasions also.

Adding a baby to the picture changed our lives even more.  We love being parents, but it's a daily challenge.  I always wonder if I'm parenting the right way.  Abby tests my patience and has quite the rebellious streak.   Parenting is frustrating.  There can be highs and lows within the span of 10 minutes.  I love being a parent, but it's sometimes it's like having a tiny stalker who will not leave you alone.  (lol) 

So we had this conversation about singleness because I told Jeff how much easier life would be if I were single and holed up in a monastery or convent.  The temptations would be fewer.  It would be so much easier to read my Bible, fast, and pray and be shut away from the din of today's technology and the dangers lurking around every corner.   It would be easy to appear saint-like when separated from stress and temptations. 

But this is not what God intended for Christians, at least not for the majority of us.   He wants us to exercise our spiritual muscles.  He pushes us through the spiritual boot-camp of life.  He wants us to achieve some powerful biceps and quadriceps.   There are no shortcuts; no magical muscle enhancing surgery. These muscles only develop through use.

Are you also suffering from some spiritual muscle soreness?  Have you faced some recent challenges that tested your faith and revealed your true heart condition?  It's for your own good.  God has a sovereign plan behind the tests you are currently enduring.

While we may be called to the desert for a period of time, God doesn't want us to live a spiritually lethargic life, separated from all non-believers. 
"I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one."  John 17:15
I thank God for blessing me with Jeff and little Abby to whip me into spiritual shape.  My muscles would be seriously atrophied without them.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Facts

Fact:  Some days I wish I had a chauffeur.

Fact:  Some days I wish I had a nanny.

Fact:  Some days I wish I had a private chef.

Fact:  I'm glad I don't have a boss as I might be fired or demoted from my job as a mom.  

Fact:  Being a mom is about growing increasingly unselfish.  You get to do what you want to do less and less.

Fact:  I still do not know my directions.  Questioning me at random times won't make me "learn" them.  Should I let me husband know this?

Fact:  In Kansas don't expect to be entertained, you must drive to the entertainment.

Fact:  If a Kansan tells you it takes an hour to get there, double that.

Fact:  If I do turn the TV on, the first channel I switch it to is the Food Network.

Fact:  Over the weekend I purchased a set of Lincoln Logs in its original box for $1.00.

Fact:  I would love to decorate a baby room with retro toys.

Fact:  I dread being displaced into the wide open plains as I sense my husband would like to move from the "big city" (pop. 3,665) to no man's land. 

Fact:  I tried sunflower butter and dove meat for the first time (not together) and they were both okay.  I could live my life without eating either again.

Fact:  I stay up too late nearly every night thinking I can accomplish more, but waking up less than rested in the morning.

Fact:  I purposely avoided watching any 9/11 footage.  It's entirely too heartbreaking.  I remembered without re-watching.  The images are forever burned into my memory. 

Fact:  I am thankful for the journey God has led me on since 2001.  I'm just beginning to grasp a little of His ways and am hungry to learn more.

Today I'm linking up with:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hands that Serve our Savior

In the course of your marriage have you ever been tempted to feel just a little sorry for yourself? Have you thought if others truly knew the stress or frustrations you endure with your spouse, how they would surely pity you?  Maybe encourage you to escape so that you could find someone more compatible?  Or perhaps you've considered ending your marriage because expectations weren't met and your relationship has only been fraught with disappointments. 

Would you be willing to marry a quadriplegic spouse and covenant before God to love them in sickness and in health? That's what Ken Tada did when he married Joni Eareckson Tada nearly 30 years ago.   And he has never regretted this decision. This evening I picked up the October issue of Tabletalk Magazine and read an article written by Ken Tada.  This article is entitled "Caregiving: a Cause for Christ."  Here is an excerpt:

"Perhaps . . . the secret to good caregiving [is] a constant awareness of one's desperate need of Jesus Christ and a steady reliance on Him day in and day out, like breathing in and breathing out.  The fact is that when I'm serving Joni, I'm serving Christ, for Colossians 3:23 reminds every caregiver, no matter how difficult or demanding the routines:  "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."  When my focus is on Jesus Christ, caregiving may feel extremely tiring, but the work doesn't have to be tiresome.  It's for Him.  I may get weary, but life doesn't have to be wearisome-again, it's all for Him and His glory." 
Aren't these encouraging words from someone who has every "right" to complain about his lot in life?  I pray that as I have opportunity to minister to others as a caregiver, from my daughter to the elderly, that I will keep this in mind and treat them as I would treat my Savior.  May these hands willingly and tenderly serve my Savior through serving others.  Caregiving is a full-time ministry. 

Ken ends his article with this verse:
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Mark 10:45

Saturday Air Show

This afternoon I took Abby to an air show in Smith Center.  The actual air show was brief and nothing spectacular, but I loved looking at the planes.  Abby enjoyed being outdoors and people watching. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. Here are a few of the pics I took.

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