Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's My Agenda?

Hey Friend,

I admit, I would be lost without my Daytimer calendar (I'm a low-tech person).
Maybe for you it's your Blackberry or your iphone.  Whatever the method, we keep our precious agenda where it can easily be accessed.  Schedules, appointments, to-do lists...we live by them.  At least I do.  Sometimes I just groan when I look at what all is penciled in on a given day.  Does that ever happen to you?  If someone asks me, "How was your day?"  I am likely to respond with a litany of what I got accomplished that day.  

I think God had a different idea in mind when he created us.  I don't believe He created us to be human "doings".  I believe He created us to be human "beings".  God created us to be in relationship with Him...period. He created us in His image so that we might relate to him.  We have a brain, a soul and a spirit for a very special reason.  Only problem is, we don't use them very often for the right reasons.  

So often, I am about the wrong things.  Don't get me wrong, things in life need to be taken care of, but what are we REALLY supposed to be about?  In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus tells about coming to the home of Martha and Mary.  While Martha spins around in Martha Stewart fashion, busying herself with all the preparations, Mary sits at Jesus' feet and just listens to Him and spends time with Him.  Martha labors while Mary listens.  Hmmm...who would I be in this story? Martha chides her sister for sitting idle while she does all the work. But what does Jesus say? 

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken from her." (Luke 10: 41-42)

Busted.  I'm busted.  Too many times I put the agenda before the author.  I am reminded time and time again in the Bible that I am to put things aside and seek God first.  Not when I get around to it, but first.

Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  (Matthew 6:33)

Again, it's the relationship, not the agenda that Jesus is highlighting.  The Bible even goes so far as to say "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  I don't believe we can pray constantly, but we can have an attititude of God-consciousness or God-surrender all the time.  God simply wants to hang with us as my kids would say. 

He loves us so much and created us for a love relationship with Him.

That was God's what is mine?  I'll end this post with a beautiful piece of prose (once again I didn't capture the author), but it really spoke to my heart and I hope it will speak to yours as to what we are to be all about:

I was made to praise You
I was made to glorify Your name
In every circumstance
To find a chance to thank You
I was made to love You
I was made to worship at Your feet
And to obey You Lord
I was made for You
I was made for the Lord...for His delight and good pleasure.  To spend time with Him and just abide in His presence.  Let me go right now and put that in ink in my Daytimer! 
Will you join me?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Reflection

Hey Friend,

Last week I wrote about my dad.  He is interred at the Florida National Cemetary which honors the military service of our Nation's veterans.  My mom and I have walked among only a few of the thousands of granite headstones that mark the graves of these great men and women.  Some of the headstones date back to the World Wars and are weathered by the elements.  The sections are not separated by military rank.  Headstones labeled, "Matthews, Gonzalez, Lebowitz, McNamara and Hersheimer" are lined up next to each other.  A band of brothers that not only served together, but some laid down their lives for their country.

For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  (Galatians 5:13)

Most died for selfless reasons; for a cause greater than themselves.  They did not just serve one another.  They served you and me.

Greater love has no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.  (John 5:13)

They didn't lay down their lives for just their friends; they did it for strangers.  They did it for people not even born yet.  Even if they didn't give their life, they were ready and willing to do so if duty called.  Some laid down limbs or their freedom to walk (our beloved paralyzed vets) so that we might walk freely in this great country of ours.

Since the Revolutionary War, soldiers fought for our freedom - in particular our freedom of religion.

And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts.  (Psalm 119:45)

I truly appreciate that I am at liberty to worship carry my Bible openly in public and pray before a meal at a restaurant.  By studying God's word and learning the "truth", the truth has truly set me free.

"and you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free."  (John 8:32)

These great veterans made that possible for me and I am forever indebted.  There is one soldier I have to remember and worship on Memorial Day, and that is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He has and does go to battle for me every day against the forces of evil.  He has defeated death and set me free by His sacrifice on the cross.  He has set me free from being a slave to sin and death.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)

My prayer this Memorial Day (and every day) is that we would pause from our barbeques and honor these veterans both living and dead who gave so selflessly for our freedom.  May we show them the honor and respect due them.

To the soldiers and my Savior I say "thank you" from the bottom of my heart.  Have a blessed Memorial Day.



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning a Different Language

Hey Friend,

Two years ago my dad went to be with his Heavenly Father.  I look around my home and I see evidence of my dad everywhere - the beautiful cradle he made for my babies, the swingset he built like Fort Knox, the drapes hung, the pictures, mirror and chandelier all hung with engineer precision.  That was my dad.  He used his hands and his ability to do things to show his love and I miss him dearly.

One might think, since I was an only child, that I was "Daddy's little girl".  Well, not exactly.  At least that's not how I felt.  I'm not quite sure where I came from...both of my parents were pretty stoic emotionally.  My dad was a man of few words and the words that did come out were often gruff or terse.  And here I was this overly emotional, rather sensitive little girl with more words than I knew what to do with.  If I didn't look like my parents I would swear I was the milkman's baby. 

My mom told me that she loved me...but oh how I longed for my dad to tell me that he loved me which he never did.  I also wished that he would just give me big bear hugs - the ones that say, " I love you to pieces"...but those never came either.  Since I didn't have siblings to see that this is just how my dad treated everyone, I internalized and believed that I was not lovable just as I was.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but that's just how I felt. 

So, I kicked it into performance mode.  I tried to be the perfect child (even though there is no such thing).  I got good grades and when that seemed to elicit some positive response, I kicked it up even further going for straight A's.
In my younger years I performed to the point of exhaustion sometimes.  All in an attempt to hear those three little words...I LOVE YOU.

I wanted my dad to tell me that he loved me in "my language" which was words.  It's been many years since I read Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages.  The book points out that we each have our own preferential love language that speaks to our hearts.  For some, like me, it is "words".  For others it's "spend time with".  For some, nothing says I love you like "touch" or giving them "gifts".  And the last one is "do things for".  I think I have that right??  Do you see where I'm going?  I spoke French while my father spoke German.

I needed a roof over my head and clothes to wear and food to eat.  Who did that for me - my dad.  When my bike broke or my rollerskates needed repairing, who did that - my dad.  When I needed to be picked up after cheering for a game, who was always there to pick me up - my dad.  When I worked and got off really late, who was always there on time to make sure I got home safely - my dad. When money needed to be earned and saved for my college education, who did that - my dad.  My dad's love language was to "do things for" others. 

It's taken me many years and actually some therapy to understand all this.  As adults we can understand these things, but as children we process things differently and can only understand with limited knowledge. 

So why am I writing all this...yes, it's been cathartic, but I know many people who grew up not feeling like they were loved just for being themselves.  I encourage you to look closely to the love language that was being spoken.  If in your marriage you just don't feel loved, perhaps your spouse speaks a different language.  The key is...we can't always expect others to speak to us in our language.  Nor can we only speak to others in our language.  We are called by Christ to learn others (our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends) love languages and to speak to them in their language.  We are also called to learn to accept love spoken to us in a language that is not our own.  It's called Learning a Different Language.

This is difficult to do a lot of the time, but it is essential if we are going to give and receive love between two very different people. The first commandment is to love God above anyone else.  The second commandment is to love others as you love yourself.  This second command may involve stretching ourselves beyond our natural limits.  We can call on God for help with this one.  Christ spoke to everyone he met in their language.  We can do the same if we will ask and let Christ speak through us.  Our relationships depend on us being selfless in learning another's love language. One fact is for certain, God loves you beyond measure.  We cannot comprehend the height or depth of God's love for us.  The Bible tells us so.

My dad never read Mr. Chapman's book.  He was of a different generation and I appreciate that now.  It is up to me to look back and see how he was speaking love to me.  As I look in the rearview mirror, I now see that my dad loved me very much.  He just didn't love me with words.  He didn't speak my language. 

I am so thankful,though, that my Heavenly Father speaks to me in several languages.  He speaks to me in languages from others.  He has even taught me to speak different languages. Nothing is impossible with God

If you love someone, enjoy the challenge of learning a different language.



ps. Physical, verbal or emotional abuse is NOT a love language and should not be tolerated under any circumstance.  Abuse, verbal or otherwise is not of God.
Please seek professional help if you are in this environment.  You are WORTHY of being loved and that is God's will for your life. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Furious Love

Hey Friend,

Though I was not blessed with a good singing voice, I still love to sing (much to the chagrin of those around me when I do so).  I was singing a worship song in church and the lyrics of the song talked about the "furious love" of God.

At first this seemed like an oxymoron to me - how could God's love be furious? I was used to references to God's "loving kindness".

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness.  (Psalm 86:15)

To me, furious meant angry, wrathful, vengeful.  But, furious, I come to find has other definitions such as:  on the offensive, very energetic, intense, very great.

God's (Christ's) love on the offensive...hmmm...

"For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost."  (Luke 19:10)

God and His Son Jesus pursue me; pursue you, persistently, powerfully and passionately.

They will overturn every rock to find you, save you and embrace you with their furious love.  Why?  because you belong to God and He cannot bear to be apart from His child.

One need only to look at the parables in the Bible that speak to someone seeking something with great energy and intensity until it is found.

In the parable of "the lost sheep" (Luke 15:1-7), the shepherd is not content with the 99 sheep of his that he has found.  No, with great and furious love, he searches for the one lost sheep until it is found and lovingly carries it back to the flock.

Much in the same way the owner of a precious lost coin searches tirelessly for that solitary coin.  And, when it is found:

"Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin..."  (Luke 15:9-10)

Translate "the coin" to "one sinner" and you get:

"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."  (Luke 15:9-10)

God has a furious love for you.  Yes, YOU!  We pass over John 3:16, but read it again slowly and insert your name.

For God so loved (Your Name), that he gave his one and only Son, that if (Your Name) believes in Him he/she shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Wow!  That is the definition of furious love.  Christ died for us while we were still ugly sinners!

The Bible is chock-full of such references of God's great love for you.  In the last book of the Bible, Revelation 3:20, Christ says,

"Hear I am! (note the exclamation point).  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."  (Revelation 3:20)

Christ's final plea.  Christ's furious love that says I will seek you till I find you.  I will search tirelessly for you until you are back in my arms.  I will knock on the door of your heart until you let me in.

That's how much I love you!

God's furious love for you...You are of great worth.  Praying you will swing wide open the door to His great love for you!



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nothing A Little Spackle Won't Fix

Hey Friend,

I've been busy lately getting estimates on more than several projects to fix up my home.  My house is sixteen years old.  My kids (ages 24 and 20) have done most of their growing up inside these walls.  For both my daughter and son, our home was always the place to gather.  Most friends knew our door was always open and the welcome mat was well worn.

I survey the upstairs' hallways.  There are scuffs, streaks and dents from endless games of hallway baseball.  The bonus room rug is well worn from knee hockey and the blinds are bent from wayward pucks.  There are nail polish spills in my daughter's room from countless sleepovers and her door still has tacky tape spots from pictures of cute boys and rainbow marker notes passed from friends at school.

The most gaping repair will be where my son put his fist through his wall in teenaged angst over a break up with a girl.  The list of projects grows, but in retrospect, I wouldn't change a minute of it.  Life was lived here!  Even stains from the family dog (that shampooing wouldn't erase) hold a place in my heart for four legged unconditional love that has since passed away.

There's nothing a little spackle won't fix.  Fresh paint, new carpets, hardwoods refinished - all hold a price, but the love lived and shared here is priceless.

When I would tuck my children in at night, I would pray silently to God that He would fill in (spackle) the places in my children's hearts where I messed up or fell short that day.  God is great at filling in the cracks our humanness leaves behind.

In fact, His grace is sufficient for all our needs and our children's needs.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Learn to love these days knowing His mercies are new every morning.

Your mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:23)

These mornings and days will pass all too quickly, though at times they may seem endless.  So Carpe Diem and if the Diem is crazy,  seize it anyway.  Yes, learn to love these days!

My son, Steven (20), recently wrote in a card to me, "Mom, thank you for being a Godly roll model for me and for spending time with me.  I loved the days when we would sit in our chairs and talk and 'watch the world go by'.... Love, Steven."

Yes, a little spackle will do the trick.

I want to wish all mothers out there a very Happy Early Mother's Day.  You may not be perfect, but you are God's perfect choice for your children.  Put down the laundry and pick up a little (or big hand) and share this priceless time with your children.



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Voluntary Prisoner - Forgiveness

Hey Friend,

Who of us would voluntarily lock ourselves in a prison cell and then throw away the key?  Sounds stupid, right?  Yet, I've done it.  I'm betting you have done it.  We all have done it to differing degrees depending on our temperament and the severity of the "offense" committed.

Thousands of books, articles, songs and scriptures have been written on  forgiveness.  I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that it is a subject so strong and prevalent.  Why?  Because we are a fallen, sinful people and we do stupid and sometimes horrendous things. 

Jesus, beaten to within an inch of His life and suffocating on a cross, offered a prayer for our depravity. "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  (Luke 23:34)

The Bible tells us that all will betray us at one point or another.  Only God will never leave nor forsake us.  If we know this, why are we so deeply hurt when someone (often someone we know well) hurts us?

We are relational creatures and we were designed to live in relationship with one another.  When that bond or trust is broken in some way, it can cut to the core of our being.  Yet, God calls us to forgive...Why?

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  (Ephesians 4:32)

If we can wrap or heads around it, God truly wants what's best for us.  Everything he commands is for OUR good.

He tells us to forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because we/you deserve peace.

Peace cannot dwell where lack of forgiveness dwells.  So when we hang onto a grudge, angst and turmoil will be our constant companions.  It's not a healthy place to live.  It is a prison cell.

In his song, "Forgiveness", Matthew West sings, "It's the hardest thing to give away...{but} The prisoner that it really frees is you."

But, you don't understand, Bev, this just isn't right or fair.  No, sadly it isn't.  It hurts even more when the offender fails to seek forgiveness or even to acknowledge that he/she has done something wrong.

But, take heart.  We serve a just God.  He cannot be unjust.  He does say, however, who vengeance belongs to.

"Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord."  (Romans 12:19)

We can trust God to administer justice.

I've held onto a worn clipping for a long time (author unknown).  When I am dealing with the impossible task of forgiveness, I often refer to it.  The words are profound:

Remember, forgiveness is not a stamp of approval on all the wrongs committed, but rather, it is your way of releasing the destructive emotions and placing them in the hands of God with confidence in his ability to administer justice.

God loves you!  He grieves over the wrongs you have suffered.  God has forgiven you and shown you grace where condemnation was deserved.  He can, through His power working through you, enable you to forgive.  It is possible.  He wants you to be free - a prisoner no longer!