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Friday, September 23, 2011

Being Prodigal

"My son, 'the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Luke 15: 31 & 32

The story of the prodigal son is probably one of the most famous parables told by Jesus. The story is quite simple. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance and then spent it on frivolous pleasures. He came back home to ask his father for a servants job, thinking that his father would be unforgiving of his behavior. The father, however, receives his son with open arms and gives him a huge banquet to celebrate his return. The older brother is angry at his fathers response to his younger son and refuses to come to the party.

I was very surprised when I looked up the word prodigal. I thought it meant reckless, irresponsible, and careless. I now see that my opinion of that son was what I was using as a basis for my incorrect definition. The word prodigal means recklessly extravagant, having spent everything. Of course, being recklessly extravagant can lead to the circumstances that this young boy found himself in. Destitute and famished. But, being prodigal can also be used to describe the father. The father offered his younger son total forgiveness, holding none of his mistakes and sins against him. Many would think that this type of reaction was extravagant. And it was.

The father in this parable represents God. Our God, who sent His only Son to die for our sins so that we will have eternal life if we believe and trust in Him. The only way God could forgive our sins was by giving up Jesus to a horrible death on the cross. Is that not extravagant? Do you not find that lavish and abundant? God is very prodigal!

The grace of our prodigal God is the only hope we have. God's grace pardon's our sins. Our sin was left at the cross and our extravagant God opens His arms to welcome us home. Prodigal? Thank goodness. I was lost, but now I'm found. So were you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Counting Hairs

"Even the hairs on your head have been counted." Luke 12:7 & Matthew 10:30

Who in your life knows you best? Who is it that understands you better, that grasps more about you than any other person you know? Who might say that they know you better than you know yourself? It is not usually too difficult to come up with who this individual is. You probably live with them or did at one time. You may be related. The relationship may be one of special intimacy.

What do they know about you? Your favorite color, movie, book, song. What your favorite food is or your favorite restaurant. Going a little deeper, they probably know about some of your past. Who you dated, how you did in school, where you have worked. They may know many of your success stories and some of your areas of failure. They know you are a good mom, an accomplished athlete. You were divorced, fired from a job. All these bits of knowledge that they have gained about you has encouraged a deep-rooted relationship. But, you have controlled some of what they know about you, not revealing everything.

We read in the above scripture that God knows how many hairs are on our head. That is pretty miraculous, but why does He feel that we need to know this information? I think it is to point out the reality of His knowledge of us. He is making it very clear that there is not one thing that He does not know about us. He knows every detail. He has a complete database on each one of us. Inside and out. Our hearts and our minds. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I am more than happy to talk to God about the good things in my life. How nice I was to someone. How I went out of my way to share His love. That's when I find myself to be real chatty whtih Him. But, what about the times my behavior is offensive? When proper has become improper and honor has turned dishonorable? It is then that I try to find a hiding place. I look for some camouflage to conceal the real me. I pretend that God did not see. Maybe He was busy watching someone else. But, I am very aware of the truth. The truth is, God knows all about me!

God comes along with His illuminating presence and floods light on my darkness. He exposes my sin. He gives me opportunity to repent and ask for forgiveness. And it is then that I am glad that He knows me for who I am. That He knows my wrongs and my rights. He can see my undisclosed and my proclaimed. And even though He tracks the hairs on my head, He does not tally up my wrongs. Forgiven! His ability to count hairs is unbelievable, but His love for His children is amazing!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Children Are Gifts

MY BLOG TODAY is dedicated to my daughter-in-love, Annie. She is a wonderful Mom & I am so blessed to have her in my life.

"Children are gifts from the Lord; they are a real blessing." Psalm 127:3

I know that there were days when my boys were little that reading that verse would have made me want to shout, "Amen! Yes Lord, thank you for these precious little bundles of joy that light up my life from morning till bedtime." And then there were those other days!! The ones that made me wonder why me? Really, Lord, what did I do to deserve this? What lessons are you trying to teach me?

It is difficult to admit sometimes that these little tikes can get the best of us. How do we allow them to run our day like little Generals? They demand, they cry, they want, they need. Saying they are a challenge is putting it nicely. You look at them and wonder where they came from. Who gave birth to these small aliens?

But, God is good and we are blessed with so many more wonderful days than not. Days when your little girl wants nothing more than to cuddle on your lap and read a book. Times when your son says something so sweet and tender to you that you think nobody will ever say anything to you again that will compare to that. (Nights when they are happy with just three books and two glasses of milk before bedtime.) You know those precious moments that light up your life and remind you that your children are truly gifts from God. And that being a mom is the best thing about you.

God called you to be a mother. He graciously blessed you with children and He knew you would be up to the challenge. Be encouraged. God choose you for these particular children. He will guide you and be with you every day. Remember, you actually are raising these children for Him. He has plans for their lives and those plans started with you as their mom.

Sometimes motherhood can seem like a very thankless job. The kids are too little to really appreciate all your efforts. Your husband is too busy to notice. Your girlfriends are trying to hang in there with their own families. So, who cares? God does. He really does. He sees you when you don't feel well, but the little ones need you more than you need to care for yourself. He hears your gentle praises and happy words when their accomplishments are huge in their little eyes. He notices the mounds of laundry, the dinner planning, all the meals, the diapers, the bottles. He appreciates your work. He sees all you achieve, all you complete. God knows the days that you push through, the bedtimes you see through. Because you know that God is aware of you, you can be motivated in the mess. You can be enthusiastic in the turmoil. Being a mom can feel thankless, but God is present. Raise those little ones for Him. Your rewards will be eternal.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Always Start With God

Pray first. Before you do anything else, pray. Ask God. Seek God. Search out God.

I would love to say that petitioning God is the first thing I do when I need help or advise. But, it is not. In fact, sometimes it seems to be the last thing I do. I cannot really say why. If I could pinpoint a reason for not praying first, then at least I would have a starting place for getting this mindset adjusted.

Is it timing? Do I think everything has to addressed immediately? Yes, I guess I do. I know I am a "get the ball rolling" kind of woman. If there is something wrong I want to get a plan in place to fix it right away. Full speed ahead is my game plan. I have a list written and the car keys in my hand, and I am out the door to take care of it all. So, how is this working for me? Sometimes it works, but I think in those times it is because I have already been through a similar situation and I have lived the plan of attack. This may mean I do not learn from my previous mistakes, but that is topic for a totally different blog. The other times, the plan falls short, the ones I am including in the arrangement do not see it as I do, or it is just a dumb idea in the end.

Maybe I do not turn to God first, because I think I am pretty capable of figuring everything out and bringing it to completion by myself. It is not that I do not what God's help, it is just that "my self" gets in the way. I know that I can do this. I am willing, so I must be able. I will pray later if I see that I cannot handle this one alone. There is always time to call in God. Really? I need to rethink this thinking.

Prayer is our breathe of life in our walk with God. Prayer is our way of communicating with God. It helps us grow closer and become more connected. The Bible has a lot to say about prayer. God wants to spend time with us. Yes, you read that correctly. HE wants to spend time with us. He wants us to ask Him for direction and help. Jesus demonstrated for His followers how to pray to the Father, and we can copy that model.

I long to be the type of woman who always goes to God first. Instead of calling a friend for her input, I need to go to God. Instead of writing a to-do list, take my requests to Him. Rather than forge ahead blindly, rest in Him and wait for His guidance. Search the Word and not a self-help article.

I am so thankful that God knows my heart. He knows I am self-centered, prideful, and presumptuous. But, He also knows that I want to please Him. I want to spend time with Him. I want to hear from Him.

May we slow down and get our focus on Jesus. May we pray first, always starting with the One who knows the beginning and the ending and wants to see us through it all.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Don't Worry About It

"Be anxious about nothing..." Philippians 4:6

Really? Don't worry? About anything? Seriously? Well, you are not raising my teen agers.
You are not living with my husband, or caring for my elderly parents, or trying to make ends meet on our income. You are not answering to my boss. You do not have my health issues. If you did, you would not be telling me to not worry or be anxious.

Have you watched the news lately or read the newspaper? There is political unrest in every nation, the stock market looks like a roller coaster, there are natural disasters every day. And meanwhile, God is instructing us not to worry, not to be troubled, not to fret.

I know these are the things that are running through your mind, because they do mine as well. How do we find quiet in turmoil? How do we calm down when we seem to have a constant headache? The answer is Jesus. He is the answer. Jesus is the only answer. Knowing Him is knowing peace. Trusting Him is ridding yourself of the constant unrest that comes with living in this world. Loving Jesus brings a quiet stillness that cannot be found in anyone or anything else.

I have come to the conclusion that worry is the opposite of trust. If we truly have our confidence in the Lord, then worrying about things we have no control over is actually insulting to Him. If we say we trust Him, but then we live with constant anxiety and fear, then in reality, we do not trust Him at all.

The people I love the most in my life are the people I trust as well. I do not think I could have a personal and intimate relationship with someone I did not trust. True love goes hand in hand with total trust. And, as all of us have experienced, these loved ones are very capable of letting us down and breaking our trust.

But, Jesus is the One that deserves our trust. We can put our hope in Him. We can rely on Him and depend on Him. If we could reach the point where we could say, "Not my will, but Yours Father", we would have reached the place that would allow us to be as worry free as is humanely possible. I cannot say that we will ever reach the point that we can be anxious about nothing one hundred percent of the time. But, I can say that God has never let me down. Every time I make the decision to place my concerns and fears in His hands, He has proven Himself worthy of my trust.

I cannot promise you much, but, I can promise you this. Each time you place your worry in God's hands, you will find a peace that other wise would not make sense. We do not know what tomorrow holds, but we can put all of our tomorrow's in very capable hands. God would not tell us not to worry if it was not possible for us to do just that. He does not ask anything of us that we cannot achieve. Start today. One concern at a time. Watch what He will do. He is capable. You can trust Him. No need to worry about that!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Changes

"...anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

In 1988 a book was written by Spencer Johnson called, "Who Moved My Cheese?" It was a motivational book about work and life, the search for what makes one happy, and how change effects that happiness. Many managers of corporations distributed the book to their employees, hoping it would motivate them to accept change and even enjoy it. Needless to say, there were mixed feelings about the book.

Change is not an easy thing to handle. Everyone experiences it and has something to say about it.

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."
Victor Frankl

"If you are in a bad situation, don't worry it'll change. If you're in a good situation,
don't worry it'll change." John A Simone, Sr

So, how do we handle change, whether it be just the bump-in-the-road kind, or the one that turns your world upside down? Do we go with the flow or do we fall apart? Are we able to modify without a meltdown? Do we adjust with a remake, a remodel, a rework, or a revamp? Or do we throw in the towel, plug our ears, and have a good old terrible-twos tantrum?

Change and how we handle it can be a choice. It can be our perception of the change and what the change will truly change! It can depend greatly on whether it is our idea or whether it is forced upon us.

My husband and I made some big changes in our lives this year. At 55 years old, we decided to relocate to Virginia to be with our children and grandchildren. We put our house on the market,left some of our family and friends, and resigned from our jobs. All of these decisions to change were our choice. We anticipated the changes we were moving forward with. Changing course was exciting. However, there were changes that we were faced with that were unexpected, and of course were not as enjoyable. There were two job modifications, a house that did not sell as we hoped for and money adjustments. But moving beyond our fear was exhilarating. We anticipated that there would be changes that would test our ability to adjust. And also that would stretch our faith.

Jesus spoke about changes. He said that if you do not change to be like a little child, you will not enter Heaven. (Matthew 18:3) He taught that God will transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:2) He spoke about becoming a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) These are not small tweaks. These are life changing transformations. These changes take total trust that God will not only bring about the process but also that He will see it through to completion.

We have all experienced the changing power of God. His changes can bring about alterations in appearance, character, and circumstance. His are supernatural changes.

A quote from "Who Moved My Cheese?" says, "Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again."

You can count on change. But, you can trust that none of them come as a surprise to God. He can change us inside and out. Get ready!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rest

"Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Mark 6:31 (Jesus speaking with His disciples)

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

What burdens you? What causes you turmoil in your life? Stress at work? Ambition to be successful? Family issues? Health problems? Sometimes just the busyness of daily life can be cumbersome. Bills, kids, deadlines, and on and on. They can all cause us torment, upset, and strain.

There are countless self-help books, magazine articles, and seminars regarding how to handle personal stress. We are told to identify the sources of the stress. Track your stress in a stress journal. Learn to say no. Take control of your environment. Try yoga. It is stressful just thinking about managing your stress.

Jesus tells us that we can find rest in Him. We can take all that clutter, all our overload, all of our strain, and let Him carry it for us. God assures us that there is a place of rest for His people. He wants to give us rest. That resting place is found in Jesus. When you are tired and your soul is exhausted, Jesus offers a place of refuge, a true place of rest.

Rest will not be found when the kids are grown, or you find a different job, or when you get married. These events will not bring the peace that your soul is craving. Rest will only be found when you have a deep relationship with Jesus. Rest will come when you know Him well enough that you can comfortably, with confidence, let go of the issues that are causing you to be burdened, and put them all in the hands of Jesus.

I know this is easier said than done. I have had my share of stress over the 30 plus years I have been a Christian. I have experienced divorce, single motherhood, remarriage, and financial strains. I have raised two boys and if you have raised boys, you know what a pressure cooker of stress that can be! I have struggled with depression, gone through menopause, and blanced the demands of work, family, and life in general. All that being said, I have weathered best when I have listened to Jesus gently calling me as He did His disciples,
"Come with me to a quiet place and I will give you rest."

Try Him. He promises to be there for you. He will comfort you and calm you. He will guide you and direct you. You will not be disappointed with Jesus. You will find strength when you rest in the Lord. Rest! Does that not sound wonderful? Give it all to Jesus, put your head back, close your eyes, and rest!