Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Bright Side

"Thank you Lord, for the day you have given us today. For all of the gifts you have given us, not the least of which is the life we have on this earth, and the eternal life we will have with you when this earthly life is over. Thank you for all of your blessings, for taking care of us, and for working all things out for Your glory. Amen."

Ah, but life should be so easy.

I say that prayer almost every day. And I mean it, I mean it with all that is inside of me. But sometimes it is much easier to say than others. Right now for instance- my husband has no job, I work part time, and we are almost 3 hours away from our family.

But God wants us to dwell on what we have, not what we do not have. The things he provides for us, sometimes even in spite of ourselves, because there can be no way we deserve it.

Here is my bright side: so far, all of our health is good, we managed to save some money over the last few months to cushion this blow, I DO have a part time job (much better than none!), the wonderful friends that I have made at work, and I have my loving family, not to mention my loving God. No matter how bad things are, we have a roof over our head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. Shelter, food, transportation, and the hope of an eternity with God. When I can focus on these, what trivial earthly matters can bother me?

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter - He is Risen!

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

Tomorrow is Easter. In the minds of so many, even us Christians, the first thoughts in our mind when Easter is mentioned are those of eggs, bunnies, and new clothes for our kids that they usually only wear once.

Praise God, Easter is so much more than that!

I remember when Bug was 3 and learned the true meaning of Easter. When she learned that people had killed Jesus she broke down crying; she looked as if she'd lost a friend. Then we told her that he came back to life and went to heaven to live with God his Father, and that he is making a place for anyone who believes in Him to live there with Him.

As adults, we need to remember the true reason for Easter as well. In my opinion, and everyone has their own, the Easter bunny is just as ok as Santa is. There is only one time in life when you are small enough to believe in such fairy tales. However, we need to make sure our children, our families, even US as individuals, remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

If Jesus had not died, as an innocent for unjust people, and then if he had not risen 3 days later just as he said he would, then what is our faith? That being said, if we are a people of faith, how faithful are we honestly if we do not celebrate that which is the essence of our belief? The life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. He is not buried anywhere now, we do not have to go and view his bones or anything such as that, we do not worship a mere mortal man, we worship GOD! God, who is large enough to place a small part of himself as the Holy Spirit into each person who becomes a believer in him and accepts his gift of grace and eternal salvation. How marvelous is our God!!

Romans 5: 7-9 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! (NIV)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Being Lazarus

We all have things that happen to us in our lives that we do not like. They can come in various shapes and forms, from something as small as a car that will not start and makes us late, so something as serious as a life threatening disease or death of a loved one. Or something more in the middle, like a virus that just knocks us off of our feet for a bit.

Did I mention that Bug has a tummy virus? No? Well, she does.

But that is not really what today's blog is about. This pertains more toward the more serious things that can happen to us or those we love. Sickness. Loss of job. Losing your home. Death.

So I bring you a familiar passage, but maybe we can shed a little different light on it and have you think about things from a different perspective.

These are a few excerpts from the Bible, from the story of Lazarus. The whole story is in John 11:1 through John 12:11 if you would like to read it. All scripture quoted below is from the NIV translation.

John 11:4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

John 11:14 So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

John 11:25 Jesus said to her (Martha), "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

John 11: 40, 43-44 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

John 11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

John 12: 9-11 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

I know we have probably all heard this story before. As a side note, if you have not, you should really check it out. I remember mainly thinking of this story in terms of what Jesus did for Lazarus and for his sisters. He gave Lazarus another shot at life, and he gave his sisters their brother back. Wouldn't that be amazing? To be mourning the loss of your loved one, and have them be able to come back and have a second chance! Or even more so, to have your days on earth done and be given a second chance by the Son of God himself to accomplish even more for his kingdom. How wonderful a gift!

However, if you read all the verses you might be able to tell that is not my focus this time. Jesus tried to tell the disciples, and us, the reason that Lazarus got sick and eventually died. Was it because Lazarus sinned, did something wrong, or was sick for no reason? No. Was it so that Jesus could give him and his family the wonderful gift of seeing him come back? No, although that was a nice side benefit for them.

No. God let it happen so that his Son Jesus would be glorified through it. As you read further, you will see that many people came to believe in Jesus because of this miracle and the walking testimony of Lazarus himself. So much so that when the priests started plotting to kill Jesus, they even discussed killing Lazarus because of all the people who believed because of him.

Bottom line is this. Sometimes when we go through trials and difficulties, especially when it seems things are as bad as they can get, we might be going through that very thing just so that God can be glorified. Not for us, not for our better good necessarily, but for the good of God. He will work all things out for His glory. Take comfort in your trials. God might be preparing miracle that you can give the testimony for and give all the glory to God. Sometimes to do that he has to take us to a place where there is no other hope or way out, except for him, just so that everyone will be able to see that God was the only way you could have gotten out of your trouble.

In God alone, through God alone, and for God alone

Praise be to God, that sometimes he lets us take part in his wonderful work to bring people back to him. We should all hope to be Lazarus someday. Not that we want to die, but so that we could be used for him.

Being Lazarus. A walking, talking testimony of the love of Jesus. Proof that what was once dead spiritually can now be alive. How wonderful!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Carrots vs Shells and Cheese

Bug hates vegetables. That is the 5 year old. Luckily so far the baby will eat anything that gets remotely close to her mouth and does not move. But Bug hates veggies. And she hates most fruit also. We have expanded her culinary horizon greatly compared to a year ago, but it is still like waging war to even mention what veggies are going to be on her plate at dinner time. She can have a plate full of shells and cheese - her absolute favorite - but all she sees and talks about and WHINES about are those few spoonfuls of carrots beside it that she must eat also. You would think I was making her go on a strict vegetarian diet with absolutely no chicken nuggets in sight to hear the way she acts when a few measly little veggies find their way onto her plate. It's like she doesn't even see the food she likes, she is too busy focusing on what she does NOT like.

As adults, I have noticed that we tend to act this same way about things in our life to our heavenly Father. He puts a few things in our path for us to go through to either grow, strengthen our character, or just to simply learn to rely on him instead of ourselves while we get through the mess. When these things happen we seem to instantly forget about all the great and wonderful things he has done and is continuing to do in our lives, and only see the horrible big bad obstacle that is now before us. Why are we so short sighted? We want our shells and cheese, but can't seem bear down and struggle through something we don't like long enough to eat our carrots.

Do you ever have one of those days? You know--you wake up late, all the shaving cream is gone, work is awful, the kids are in a bad mood, your spouse is having a bad day also, no one seems to care, you realize you forgot to mail a payment, you find out they are having layoffs at your work, and then the very last straw is when you burn dinner to a crisp! Ever have one of those days, or those weeks? The little things chip away at us slowly and if we do not notice and take action, when a big obstacle comes up it will tear a giant chunk of us off.

Lately a lot of things have been going on in the lives of people I know, and my personal life, that can bring on worry, doubt, and even discouragement. Fortunately, the new series our church is doing right now is on HOPE. This has been very timely for me! I am also reading a book Having a Mary heart in a Martha world, that speaks a lot about worry and discouragement.

What are we to do when it feels as if everything, and sometimes everyone, in our lives has turned against us? Should we lie down and give up, get mad and pitch a 2-year-old type tantrum, go shopping (sometimes even if we have no money), go out to eat and try to drown our problems in food? Or, worse yet, I have several people I know that just seem to "check out" of life when everything goes wrong. Their bodies are here, but their minds are not and they have no joy about anything, they just go through the motions of life.

Matthew 6:25 Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy about your life (Amplified Bible)

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God knows that things bad will happen in our lives. Jesus tells us that bad things WILL happen. He also tells us that we should not dwell on them. Not that we should not be concerned and do what we can, but in the end we are to realize that everything is from God. Therefore we should turn all things over to God and let him work them out and spend our time focusing on God, instead of focusing on our problems. Think through your difficulties, then prayerfully turn them and your thoughts over to God.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. (NIV)

When we spend all of our time dwelling on our problems we magnify them in our mind. Whatever we continually think about will be our perception of the world. God wants us to think constantly about the good things he has done and will do for us instead of any troubles we may be going through that will depress us. Remember, even if nothing else is going right: God sent his son to die for YOU. That is right - YOU. So that you may be redeemed. How could we let anything overshadow that simple truth?

In short, if all you see are carrots, then that is all you feel the world is. If you can hunker down long enough to eat the carrots, you can get on to the creamy shells and cheese of life.

So, eat your veggies. God wants you to have the cheese.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Evidence We See

I don't know if I have mentioned it before or not, but I have 2 daughters. The oldest one, Bug, is five; and the baby, Boo, is 1yr. They are almost exactly 4 years apart. Most of the time you will see stuff about Bug in my entries more than Boo, just because she is older, can talk, and by those very reasons alone gives me more material to write about.

Among the many things Bug got for Christmas, one was her very first board game. It's cute, and both my hubby and I have been suckered into playing it a lot lately because Boo can't and would probably just eat the pieces. We have tried to tell Bug before that "it doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game", and "just try your best", and "don't be mad at them if they win; do you want them to be mad at you if you win?". Apparently, all of this has fallen on deaf ears. She had fun while we were playing, but both times I won. The first time she didn't take it too bad, the second time she lost her "attitude coin" for today and I made her get ready for bed early. Now she says that she understands the rules of how we play and share, that she knows about being a good sport, but what do her actions show?

That may be a bit much, after all, she IS only 5 and still learning; but I want you to think about us as adults. We claim to be Christians. We claim to know right from wrong. But how do other see us? To others from the outside looking in, what do our actions show?

James 2:18-19 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. (NIV)

Apparently we people do not change much over the centuries. "Good" people that did not believe in Christ had the same argument in Biblical times as they do today: "I am a good person and do good things, so I will go to heaven. I'm better than that such-n-such preacher on TV that claims to be all righteous but is just a hypocrite. Just look at my deeds versus his!"

There are 2 major points in these verses:

1. Deeds alone will not get you into heaven

2. If you really have faith, you will want to do good deeds out of the abundance of love and gratitude in your own heart, and that will show others the evidence of your faith.

So what about the people that claim to be Christians that backslide? Well, we all continue to sin, whether we like it or not. But the trend of our lives should be farther and farther away from sin the longer we walk with Jesus. If the trend of our lives gets farther away from him instead of closer, then we should examine whether or not we really have a relationship with him. Like the old joke of the elderly couple riding to town in the pickup truck - the wife claims there is so much distance between them as she sits by the passenger door-- her husband tells her that he is not the one who moved. People, if we used to have a wonderful relationship with God and we feel we don't now, he is not the one who moved away, we did, and we are the ones who need to move back.

A little side note here, the verse also says something about people who believe there is a God, even people who believe that Jesus came and he was the son of God. The demons and Satan know that too, but does it save them? No! Why not? Head knowledge never equals heart knowledge in God's kingdom. You can know everything possible, memorize the Bible from front to back, yet if you have not asked God to come into your heart, asked Jesus to take your place for the punishment of your sins, well then folks, you are no more a Christian than you are a car just by knowing all about the mechanics of one.

As for my Bug, she is only 5, and we still have more time to work on her character development. In a way this game was a good thing, it brought it to our attention, and maybe we can have some time to work on this before school starts. She is already good at winning, you should see her "happy dance"!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Contentment- the ugly "C" word

Let me tell you a secret you may not know about my two daughters. They are spoiled. Royally spoiled. Rotten to the core. My husband and I love to point out that this is due to both sets of grandparents, and not to us. They are my scapegoats and that is the story I am sticking with.

Apparently both sets of grandparents held up a toys r us each and brought all the goods to my house, at least that is what it looks like in here. My older girl, Bug, (not her real name.. just in case anyone thinks I actually am that crazy, I'm not), anyway, Bug got a lot of Littlest Pet Shop toys for Christmas among all the zillion of other things. The first thing she did when she opened one of the packages was to take out the paper flier that has pictures of ALL of the LPS creatures and start telling us which ones she did not have. She already had a lot on her dresser and got around 18 for Christmas! Yet all she was concerned with was getting more... having them all! I had to gently remind her that she was never going to have them all, because if she did then those Pets would have to live in the closet with the tub full of Thomas the Tank Engine and ALL of his friends, or in the large backpack that has Lightening McQeen and ALL of his friends, including 2 Mac trucks and all of the Dinoco Cars, from the movie Cars. We are running out of places to put stuff and it cost too much to throw or give away. I think we'll just hold on to it and when she is 17 I'll start auctioning it off on Ebay to pay for her college tuition.

This snippet brings me to my bible verse for today:

Exodus 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." (NIV)

So here is what you are probably thinking: the manna verse is much better suited to a "God supplies our need" blog than a Contentment blog. And that may be so. The wonderful thing about the Bible is that many verses can be used for many topics. There is a wealth of information waiting in every word if we just stop and look for it, kind of like trying to find the last piece of good chocolate at the bottom of your kid's Halloween candy sack.

The part I'd like to focus on is "the people are to go out EACH DAY and gather ENOUGH FOR THAT DAY. In that way I will TEST THEM and see whether THEY WILL FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS." (emphasis mine).

The Israelites were only supposed to take enough of this life giving food for each day. That may not seem like a lot, but it meant that they were not supposed to keep any for the next day at all. They had to fully rely on God, and not themselves, to take care of their needs for the next day. At the same time they had to be content with what God provided for them each day to meet their daily needs. When we pray for God to "give us our daily bread", we need to know that sometimes that is manna, or bread and water, and it does not mean we will have enough money in our banking account to have a ribeye every day. Yet we must be content with what God provides. He may not give us what we want, but he will always give us what we need.

We usually have a difficult time telling the difference between "enough" and "too much". Our culture does not really help the situation, in fact, it generally makes it worse. Look at commercials very closely, who is happier? Is it the lady that is shopping at the mall, or the one wearing older clothes? Is it the family eating out every night at a restaurant or a family striving to cook something at home that no one wants to eat. Do people love their new cars or homes? Why yes they do-- until someone they know gets one better or newer or bigger... well... you get the idea.

Why do we care? Why do we want more? Even in a child as young as mine, the urge is already there to have it all. And what can we do about it? You can try to influence your own family, but you must be prepared with a backup plan because you are not the only influence they will have and you will need to weed through the others to determine what you can let stay and what you must weed out for good.

In the end, there are very few things we actually need. Food. Shelter. Water. Above all of this though, we need a relationship with God. He alone can fill our needs, our hearts, our need for a savior. Maybe if we focus more on him, and less on this world, we can learn to be more content.

In the mean time I suppose Barbie's dream house will have to build an addition to hold all of the pets that have taken over the black hole that is Bug's room.