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Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Are You Eating These Days?

Yesterday we finished the inaugural course of Satisfied...at Last! at my church here in Arizona. I led two wonderful groups of women through the 6-week course and we all ate it up together! I am so thrilled at the great reception this book is already getting. I can say that because I take no credit for the study whatsoever. Hesitating to sound mystical or super-spiritual, I can't help but tell you that God truly doled out this study to me one day at a time and He was gracious to do so. It is filled, quite simply, with the lessons He has taught me about how He saved us to satisfy us.

During the course we learned the essential skill for eating from the King's table: simply to eat daily and fully from Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Word that became flesh. When we have a living and vibrant relationship with Jesus, we can take in His Word, meditate on it, memorize it, and properly apply it to our lives knowing that it will not return void, but will accomplish something powerful in our lives. And that, quite simply, has proven to be the key to living a satisfied life - feasting on the Word of God.

I am amazed by the arrogance of most believers, me included, who have believed that we could live an abundant, full and satisfied life in Christ without really digesting His Word. Do you see our foolish behavior for what it's been? Do you see how we talk about the Bible being precious, we quote it when it's convenient, and we study it when we've got a good group of girlfriends to gather with, but we neglect to eat on it daily?

We are told over and over and over in the Bible to meditate on God's Word. We are reminded that it is in meditation that we really sink our roots deep and begin to live fruitful lives.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and in His law he meditates day and night.
And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither;
and in whatever he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:2-3

And yet most of us, me included, have arrogantly decided that such devotion to the Word of God, such large quantities of time spent in it, such attempts to memorize it and store it in the deepest places of our hearts, such "chewing on it", if you will, are for ...others....not for me. 

What a shame.

The Lord taught me a few years ago, through the wise teachings of others and through their vibrant examples, that if I want to be satisfied deep in my soul and no longer be led here and there by my soul hungers then I'd better start "eating His Word." No punches allowed. No ifs, ands, or buts. Put up or shut up.

And so I put up.

I started gathering tasty morsels from His Word that fed my hungry soul and stocking my pantry with them. 

Alright Kay, drop the picturesque language and cut to the chase. How did you do that exactly?

I simply listened and watched and waited with expectancy for God to lead me to scriptures that spoke to my current soul hungers, wrote them on 4x6 index cards, put them in a 4x6 photo album and began reading them, meditating on them, and even memorizing them...daily...many times, daily.

Last year, in my attempt to get to attend Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Challenge in Houston, I memorized all 24 of my scriptures. But I'd been filling photo albums with meaningful scriptures for several years before her challenge. I had been meditating on them, but not memorizing them. Now, with 24 scriptures under my belt, I know I still have the keen mind of an AWANA kid and can memorize if I really put the effort out.

I don't always memorize my scriptures, but I do meditate on them every day, almost without fail.

I don't tell you this to brag. Do you brag about picking up a fork and knife and eating dinner? Heavens, no. What's there to boast about? I'm just sharing this because I'm passionate about teaching others just how simple it is to feed ourselves a steady diet of the bread of life so that we are truly satisfied. It really is as simple as learning how to use a fork or knife. Or maybe for those of us who are a little stuck in our ways, it's about as simple as learning to use a pair of chop sticks - not something we'll grasp the first time we pick them up, but certainly doable!

So my question for you today is, what are you eating? Are you eating? Soul food that is. You'll only find it in the Word of God. And you'll only start to really digest enough of it to satisfy when you heed the very clear instructions of the Bible and start meditating on it. More on that tomorrow!

Have a blessed day! I'd love to know if you have a similar way of eating the bread of life. Do tell!

P.S. - You'll want to head over to my friend Yvonne's blog at StoneGable. She's having a very generous anniversary give-away. Be sure to enter. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Go! Fight! Pray!

This week is homecoming week at our high school. Since my daughter runs everything there (we let her think she does anyway; we know better, of course), she is very busy this week.

She's painting on t-shirts and sweat shirts, making spirit cans out of hunting buckets, taking things like swimming noodles, candy, and goggles to school, and emceeing the pep rally. She didn't get to be Becky the mascot horse yesterday at the pep rally because she had to emcee it. She didn't like that. Poor baby, she just can't do it all. (But remember, she thinks she does, so shhh!).

But while Abby's running participating in homecoming, I'm joining up with something else that could hugely affect the high school this week. We're starting a new Moms In Touch group here in our town and I'll be going to the first prayer meeting in just a little while.

I called one of our assistant principals this morning who is also a Christian. (Thank God in heaven above for Christian administrators!) I asked her how we could best pray for the high school. And she, bless her heart, rattled off a list to me.

The list wasn't made up of hopeless details or woe-is-me's. It was a well-used and scriptural list straight from her own morning prayers. Here's what this administrator suggested we pray for:
  • That Satan be bound and Jesus be lifted up in the school.
  • For strength for the Christian students and their testimonies.
  • For wisdom for the teachers.
  • For cooperative hearts for the students.
  • For the godly students and teachers to be salt and light in the school.
I'll be sharing these prayer requests with my MIT group this morning and we'll be taking them to the Lord for our schools. Won't you join us today in praying for the teachers, staff and students in your local schools?

After all, a pep rally is one thing, but a prayer rally is even better. (Just don't tell Abby!)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Strength! Courage!

 Have you ever trembled in your pumps, shaken in your sandals, or quaked in your clogs? Have you ever been down on your knees and clearly heard the Lord ask you to do something, but as you got up on your feet your knees buckled at the thought of the task? Have you ever planned and prepared and even prayed about a ministry, but when the moment came to follow through you feared falling on your face?

I have.

Ministry - of all sorts - can be plain out scary.

You want me to talk to my neighbor about Jesus?

You want me to offer to be in charge of the meal for the funeral?

You want me to keep her kids every Thursday so she can have some time for You?

You want me to teach three-year-olds, are You kidding?

You want me to give my testimony?

You want me to visit her in the hospital and even offer to pray for her, right there, right then?

You want me to teach a Bible study? To adults, no less?

You want me to introduce myself to her and ask if she goes to church anywhere? Lord, does she look like she goes to church anywhere?

You want me to visit senior adults in the assisted living center?

Are You kidding?

Yes, ministry can be a little frightening.  It requires that we get real, put it all on the line, trust God. It also might mean talking about the Bible, our beliefs, our relationship with God, the plan of salvation. Ow! That can be hard.

But if God is calling you to serve Him in any way today - and my bet is that He is - then you can count on Him also equipping you, going with you, and even giving you the courage to face the task.

Joshua 1:6-7 says:

Strength! Courage! 
You are going to lead this people to inherit 
the land that I promised to give their ancestors. 
Give it everything you have, heart and soul. 
Make sure you carry out The Revelation 
that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. 
Don't get off track, either left or right, 
so as to make sure you get to where you're going. 

So the key to having confidence and courage in ministry? It's not whether you have you feet adorned with kitten pumps or clogs. It's not about wearing sneakers or boots. And it doesn't matter if you're silver sandals or your baby blue flats usually give you the most confidence.

Sister, "shod you feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace." (Ephesians 6:15) As in every other area of life, the more you're in the Bible, the more you'll be prepared, the more confidence you'll have, and the more effective your life will be. Read God's Word, meditate on it, memorize it, hide it in your heart, speak it, and believe it. 

Then and only then will you be able to have the courage of Joshua. And when God gives you a task, you'll be able to slip into your slides, your stilettos, your sneakers, or your mules and walk forward with confidence.

Take courage my friend. You're walking in some good shoes today!

Friday, September 24, 2010

New "Sandals"

Yesterday we said goodbye to two dear, old, faithful friends:

These are my Israelite sandals

"I led you 40 years in the wilderness; your clothes and 
the sandals on your feet did not wear out; ...
so that you might know that 
I am the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 29:5-6

I still remember the day my fiance called and told me he wanted to buy us this washer and dryer. He was living in Texas and had already moved into the apartment we would live in as newlyweds. I was in Georgia getting ready for the wedding.

I was one of those college kids that was talked into signing up for a credit card and fortunately I had used it responsibly up to the point. So I had a little bit of credit history. James, on the other hand, had nothing on his credit report. So he decided it would be a good idea for us to buy a new washer and dryer for our apartment on credit. He went to Sears and picked out a pair of Kenmores, called and asked for my opinion, and opened a Sears charge account to pay for our first investment as a couple.

I remember when I visited him in November that he proudly showed me the apartment and then took me out onto the balcony, opened a double-door closet and showed me the new Kenmore washer and dryer.

As of this week, we've been using this same washer and dryer for approximately 23 years. They've survived 8 moves, some of those long distance and others just down the road. They've washed and dried everything from work clothes to baby clothes, rugs to table cloths, shower curtains to linens, money to important receipts and papers.

For some time now, I've been hankering for a new washer and dryer. Every time the washer starts banging around and chugging across the floor due to inoperable balance problems, I want to kick it and put it out of its misery. But these two appliances have cleaned and dried our family's clothes faithfully and well without fail. I knew the day would come when we'd get replacements, but at what cost? I longed for shiny new appliances, but I didn't want to pay the cost.

And then early this week I found out that a military couple in our church was about to put their washer and dryer in storage while they moved overseas...unless someone wanted to buy them. 

Facebook conversation insued:

"What kind of washer and dryer do you have? And how much would you want for them?"

"They're one year old Maytags, front loaders. We'd like to get $1,000 for them."

Hmmm. Not a bad price at all for practically a new washer and dryer. But still, there was that price I'd been dreading paying for appliances. I went to see them and, sure enough, they were beauts. But we didn't really have $1,000 to fork over right now.

"We'll think about it and get back with you. Thanks so much for showing them to me."

The next morning I put clothes in my old steady, sturdy, long-lasting Kenmore again. I suppose these will do a little longer. They still work. They still clean. They still dry. $1,000 is a great price, but not if you don't have $1,000.

Then I checked my e-mails.

E-mail from friend with the Maytags to sell:

"We've thought about it and we'd like for you and Pastor James to have the washer and dryer for $500. And you don't even have to pay us right now if you don't want to."

Don't you just know that the Israelites were mighty thrilled when they finally got to get some new sandals on their weary feet? I know they were pleased as punch that those sandals had lasted them for 40 years, but I also know, from experience mind you, that they were thrilled to lace up some new ones and wiggle their toes in the latest style!

We are so thankful for the generosity of this young couple who chose to bless us with a new washer and dryer. Yes, we certainly and willingly forked over the $500. But as far as I'm concerned, they really gave us these new appliances. Who ever heard of getting Maytag frontloaders gently used for a year for $500?

The funny thing is, we could have bought a new washer and dryer the same way we bought the first ones - on credit. We could have bought them a long time ago. But we didn't need to. It's decisions like that that have enabled me to stay home with my kids instead of going back to work full-time. Little sacrifices like that have made a huge difference in our family life.

It's also decisions like that which have allowed us to see God work on our behalf time and again. Do you think I see these appliances a little differently because of they way they came to us? You betcha, I do. I see them as gifts from God - blessed, timely gifts. And I see that sweet couple as people who made themselves available to be used by God to bless someone. I pray that God blesses them mightily for their generosity.

I dashed out to Target yesterday afternoon and bought the new detergent I needed for my new High Efficiency washer. Then I came home and put in my first load - towels and sheets, a much bigger load than I ever could have put into my temperamental 23-year-old Kenmore that banged across the floor with its incurable balance disease..

Oh, did I neglect to mention that we'd had them 23 years?!?

I swear, the first load came out fluffier and sweeter smelling than any load I'd done in years.
I actually enjoyed folding the towels and sheets and putting them in the linen closet.

In fact, I'm enjoying laundry altogether again. I just want to wash and dry everything in my house!

Maybe my zeal for doing laundry will wane, but I don't really think so. And I know I will always appreciate this washer and dryer even more because of how God provided it for us.

Father, thank you for my new washer and dryer. I know they are truly gifts from You. I want to pledge to You today to enjoy serving my family with them. I won't leave loads sitting in the washer for days and I won't pull out just one item at a time from the dryer until only a few socks remain. I'll diligently keep my family's clothes and linens clean with these wonderful new appliances.

And Lord, thank you for 23 years of good service from the other appliances. Like the Israelites' sturdy sandals, their longevity indeed showed me that You are the Lord, my God. You have always provided for us and You always will.

But it's so good to put on "new sandals" today!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wise or Just Gray?

Forget "Not So Wordy Wednesday". I've got words today that I failed to use yesterday, so I'm back-tracking and doing a Trailblazer Tuesday post.

I get to do that because this is my blog.

I was reading in Job the other day - delightful reading :( - and found a little passage I don't remember seeing before, although technically I must have because I've read the Bible through a few times by now.

I was probably dozing through Job those times.

At any rate, I came across today's unfamiliar trailblazer deep in the heart of the book of Job. Let me introduce you to Elihu:

Then these three men ceased answering Job,
because he was righteous in his own eyes.
But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite,
of the family of Ram burned; 
against Job his anger burned,
because he justified himself before God.

And his anger burned against his three friends 
because they had found no answer, 
and yet had condemned Job.
Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because
they were years older than he.
And when Elihu saw that there was no answer
in the mouth of the three men his anger burned.

So Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzzite spoke out and said,
"I am young in years and you are old;
Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think.
I thought age should speak,
and increased years should teach wisdom.
But it is a spirit in man,
and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.
The abundant in years may not be wise,
nor may elders understand justice.
So I say, 'Listen to me,
I too will tell what I think.'"

Job 32:1-10

Now I don't want to pick any fights here, call any names, or be disrespectful to my elders, but I, like Elihu, have something I want to say. 

Age, experience, gray hair, you name it, those things do not indicate wisdom. The Bible teaches that wisdom comes from the Lord. Like every other good and perfect thing, He gives it to those who ask for it (James 1:5, 17), He gives it to anyone who truly desires it with the right motives (James 1: 5-8), and He gives it to those who fear Him (Psalm 111:10). In fact, fearing God, esteeming Him above anyone or anything else, is a prerequisite for wisdom.

But age is not.

A number of years ago I was part of a church that traditionally honored its senior members with a specific plaque on their 80th birthday. This Octogenarian Award touted the wisdom acquired and the respect due to these folks based purely on their accumulated years of life. Not only that, but the award exempted these senior adults from having to hold their tongues, speak with grace, behave respectfully, get along with others, and just about every other biblical act of civility. In other words, they had lived long enough to be exempt from the Bible.

The award may have been given in good fun and good humor (although I neglected to find the fun or the humor), but it conveyed several dangerous messages. First it indicated that age somehow means something of significance more than a very bright birthday cake. Folks, the truth is, I've seen my share of 16 year-old fools and I've seen my share of 82 year-old fools. Which do you think is the sadder lot?

Second, the award indicated that age somehow earns you the right to spout your opinions and lord them over others. Like Job's three friends who had failed to state an intelligent case in their discourse with Job, senior adults are assumed to have the right to speak their minds on any subject and the rest of us are thought to be obligated to oblige them with agreement, respect, and adoration. Sorry, but once again, that's just not biblical. The Bible does teach us to be respectful to our elders, and no one is more cognizant of that principle than me. I think we should always speak kindly and reverently to those who are older, but I don't think we always should obey, defer to, or look up to our elders. The Bible teaches us to hold in high respect those who are teaching the gospel, those who are living godly lives, and those who exalt the name of the Lord. Period. Regardless of age.

Finally, this silly award inferred that anyone over 80 is a valuable source of knowledge and wisdom. They can be trusted to know the answers and we should go to them with confidence that they can help. I repeat, I've known some foolish teenagers and some equally foolish senior adults. If you need advice, go to someone godly and above reproach, whether that person is 85 or 35. If you're measuring their wisdom quotient by the Bible, our only reliable source for measuring anything, then you'll be able to spot a truly wise person every time. 

Here's the bottom line:

As I gain more gray hair, wrinkles, and other ridiculous signs of aging that no one ever bothered to tell me about, I don't want anyone to assume that I'm wise just because I have the natural, visible signs of experience. I want my well-lived life to show wisdom, not my hair color. And I want to grow in true wisdom, not just the kind you're assumed to have because you've been around the block a few times. As far as I'm concerned, multiple trips around the block just result in arthritis, tired knees, and bunions, not wisdom. If I'm going to grow in wisdom it will be because I've spent time on my knees before the throne of God and time with my reading glasses eating up the Word of God. And I'm willing to put in the necessary time to acquire that kind of wisdom.

Meanwhile, I am so thankful for the wise people God has put in my path along the way - some old, some not so old.. They have not used their wisdom to lord over me or to make me feel insignificant. They have not used their wisdom as a trump card either, demanding to be treated with deference or using it to get away with bad behavior. They would never do that. Instead, they have, in all ways, behaved wisely.

By the way, because they're probably reading and I would never want them to think this post is about them, let me clear the air on one important matter:

My parents are decidedly two of the wisest people I've ever know. I won't be giving them an Octogenarian Award when they turn 80 (and they haven't yet), but I'll continue to gladly give them my respect, go to them for answers, and defer to them because they have truly earned that from me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What are You "Spending Your Money" On?

Eventually we all hope to find something that will "work for us," something that will satisfy, something that really lights our wick or rings our bell. We search and experiment and dabble and hunt and seek until we find something that makes us feel full, good on the inside, like we're really going somewhere.

We want to feel alive, charged, exhilarated.

We want to be full, satisfied, content.

We want to have purpose, meaning, significance.

We want to have joy, enthusiasm, excitement.

We want to connect, get intimate, be real with someone and have them be real with us.

We want to matter, to be loved, to be accepted.

We want a lot don't we? And, quite honestly, I don't think God is appalled at our desires at all. I repeat, God is not appalled or offended by our hunger, by our thirst. In fact, I think He created us that way.

He didn't create milk toast, boring, lazy people with no drive, no vision, no ambition, no hunger. He created us to hunger and thirst so that He, the God of the Universe, our Creator, could satisfy us completely, abundantly, thrillingly and eternally.

The writer of Psalm 42 knew this because He wrote in verses 1 and 2,

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
so my soul pants for Thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?

This guy knew he wasn't hungry for a new chariot, a dashing new robe, a sleek new sword or a night with his pick from the harem. He knew his soul was thirsting for something only his God could supply.

And David knew the satisfying provision of God too. He wrote in Psalm 63:5:

My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

In case we wonder if God just satisfies our souls with bland and boring, healthy and wholesome, and meaty but mundane, we should check out a newer, more contemporary version of David's praise.  The Message interprets Psalm 63:5 this way:

I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy;
      I smack my lips. It's time to shout praises! 

No, God doesn't just appease our souls with something that will "do." He wows us with soul-satisfying good stuff that is the spiritual equivalent of prime rib and gravy. His goal? For us to lick the tasty, fatty juices from our lips and give Him a hardy shout out. He doesn't just satisfy our souls out of obligation. He doesn't shake His head and say, "Good grief. She's hungry again." And He doesn't begrudgingly offer us a minimal morsel to tide us over. 

He lays out a banquet table and invites us to partake with gusto and enthusiasm. He pours unending glasses of living water and lays out warm loaves of the Bread of Life. He says to partake hardily of His Son by reading His Word, meditating on it, memorizing it, applying it to your life and living the thing. And He enjoys our feasting as much as we do. He wants to impress our socks off so we'll hop up from the table and go invite others to the feast as well.

But here's the kicker.

Many of us are doing what God's beloved people were guilty of in Isaiah 55:2. We're paying for cheap substitutes instead of eating from God's abundance. We've forsaken the fountain of living waters and dug our own wells in hopes that they could somehow provide what we need to quench our thirst. What a waste. What a costly mistake.

In Isaiah 55:2, God says:

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, 
and your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourself in abundance.

So today I simply ask you, what are you spending your money on that doesn't really satisfy? On what are you spending your wages (your reputation, your integrity, your family, your marriage, your time, ...) that keeps you coming back over and over like a driven slave, but never satisfies your thirsts? 

It's not worth it.

Walk away from that which doesn't satisfy and run back to the One who will. He's set a place for you and will welcome you with open arms. Run.

If you want to know more about how God satisfies our souls, may I suggest my new Bible study, Satisfied...at Last! It's a 6-week Bible study that teaches you how to be truly satisfied with the Bread of Life. You can order by contacting me with the Contact button or by visiting Barnesandnoble.com.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Friday Night Lights

Friday nights are big in Texas, big in Georgia, not so big in Arizona. We were amazed when we went to our first Arizona football game and there were approximately 12 people in the visitors' stands. Of course that is probably because those 12 folks drove close to 250 miles to see their team play.

But even if Friday nights are not that big in Arizona, they're big to the Harms family--or at least a portion of us.

Here's what Abby does on Friday nights:

No, she's not the spiffy little cheerio. She's the horse in a tutu.

That's my girl!

Abby is Becky and the male horse is Bucky. We're the Colts.

And here's what my husband does on Friday nights:

He announces the game...

What do I do? I take pictures of Abby and James and then I go home and enjoy a house to myself. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

They Need to Know

"Come and hear, all who fear God, 
and I will tell of 
what He has done for my soul."
Psalm 66:16

When was the last time you told anyone what God had done for your soul? Many of our Psalms are results of David passionately recounting for us what God had recently done to satisfy the longings of his soul. Whether good or bad, disciplinary or protective measures, sweet or savory, David was quick to share the morsels God had heaped onto his spiritual plate. Other psalmists also echoed David's praises to God. They shared openly and boldly how God had satisfied their souls.

In Psalm 118:18, David admits, "The Lord has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death." Many of us would be too ashamed, too private to admit to such dealings with God. But David was transparent enough to let us know he had been dealt with sternly, but compassionately. I need to know that.

In Psalm 103:13-14, David touts God's compassion and lovingkindness, His understanding of man's frailty. Indeed, it is wonderful to feel understood, especially to feel you have been understood by a compassionate soul. I need to know that.

In Psalm 94:19 the psalmist boasts that when his heart was anxious with multiplying concerns, God consoled his fretful soul and even delighted him in the midst of his stress. I need to know that.

In Psalm 73:17 the psalmist Asaph admits he was confused and had lost perspective until he came into God's presence through worship. Then God restored his vision and he was able to see things from God's vantage point again. I need to know that.

In Psalm 68:19, David blesses the Lord because He has daily carried his burdens and saved him. I need to know that, too.

In Psalm 34:4, David brags that the Lord has delivered him from his fears and given him renewed courage. I certainly need to know that.

In Psalm 32:1-2, David writes, "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." Obviously once again David was speaking from personal experience. He had been given grace, forgiveness, and a clean slate. I need to know that's possible.

And in Psalm 18:35-36 we learn that David is grateful for the fact that God has upheld him with His right hand, stooped down in order to make David great, and enlarged his steps so that he would not lose his footing during a very difficult ordeal. God has seen him through. And I need to know that.

I'm quick to tell others when God provides for me and my family financially. I'll give Him public praise easily when He heals someone I love. And I love to tell others how He has gotten me out of one mess or another. But how often do I tell anyone about God's dealings with my soul? That would require some degree of transparency, some amount of intimate disclosure.

And yet, I believe that is exactly what our world needs to know. Especially here in America where so many people believe they can take care of themselves. And maybe they can...to a degree. They can earn a paycheck and put food on their table and raise their kids...all with some degree of satisfaction. But I guarantee you that when it comes to the deep and groaning desires of the soul, they're coming up empty handed. You see, no one can satisfy our souls like God can. No one can heal our hearts, soothe our hurts, grant compassion, give us understanding, encourage us in our fears, give us perspective, speak truth to our doubts, or fill our empty places like the One who created us.

And our world needs to know this.

So today I'm encouraging us all to be a little more transparent, a little more forthcoming, a little more intimately soul-baring...in the fashion of the psalmists. Let's be quicker to tell others what our God has done for our souls. Let's "sound His praise abroad" (Psalm 66:8) and invite others to "come and see the works of God." (Psalm 66:5) And the result?

"All the earth will worship Thee,
and will sing praises to Thee;
They will sing praises to Thy name."
Psalm 66:4

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Don't Do Much After All

As a mom there are times when I feel like the weight of the world falls on my shoulders. I'm the one who has to make sure we have a meal on the table each evening. I'm the one who makes sure the kids have decent clothes to wear to school. I make sure everyone's up and where they're supposed to be each day. And while my husband make keep close tabs on our house's thermostat, I'm the one who takes our home's emotional temperature periodically to make sure everyone's doing "ok."

Today with a sick child sitting on the sofa the weight on my shoulders seems even heavier. I'll need to get her to the doctor's office today, bring her lots of water and kleenex, and generally keep her supplied with whatever will help her heal faster. Not only that, but I've still got to get my work done, clean the house up for soon-to-arrive houseguests, make a few phone calls, and bathe the dogs.

I confess, as I drank my coffee and sneezed my head off (thanks to allergy problems) this morning, I was resenting the demands of the day. My shoulders were physically drooping with the weight of the impending responsibility. But as I arose from my kitchen table and looked out my back window I noticed the children lining up in the elementary school playground just behind my house. All the children had their backpacks on their backs and a handful of teachers gathered at the door to let them in the building so they could begin their day. Undoubtedly most of the children have parents who helped make sure they arrived at school clean, dressed, fed and ready for the day.

I walked to the front of my house and looked out the windows there. Garbage cans lined the street where responsible neighbors had put them at the curb for emptying. Cars moved slowly down the road carrying people to work. The sun was up and another day was beginning.

That's when it occurred to me that I'm not responsible for the world. You'd think that would be a no-brainer, but occasionally, ever so rarely, I honestly wake up in the mornings feeling like it's my responsibility to haul the sun up into the sky. Silly, I know, but that's just the kind of martyr I am.

Today I am grateful that I have a God who never slumbers or sleeps. I have a God who, according to Psalm 139, is already busy working on my behalf before I even wake up in the mornings. I have a God who has the whole world in His hands. Not only that, but He has my world in His hands, His very capable, strong hands.

So I have a few responsibilities. Who doesn't? The Bible tells me I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And apart from Him, I can do nothing.

So which will it be today? Will you and I accomplish all we are ordained to do today through His strength? Or will we wrestle with the weight of the world on our shoulders like disillusioned martyrs? I'm opting for resting in His strength, letting Him carry the weight of the world, and anticipating with joy the great things He will do.... but I do need to get my trash can to the curb.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What if They Find Out?

I've been having nightmares recently. They vary in content and level of scariness. There doesn't seem to be any one consistent theme. Nor can I detect that one thing that I'm doing during the hours preceding bedtime that might be causing me to have these scary dreams. Other than the fact that I've experienced a variety of stressors lately, I can't put my finger on why I'm having nightmares most every night.

But these nightmares don't faze me at all in comparison to the haunting premonition that eases its way into my consciousness ever so often. This "nightmare" is definitely caused by one of my biggest fears: the fear of being found out.

Some days, when my sense of security is a little fragile, I worry that everyone will find out that I really am not who I claim to be. That I'm not really:
  • a mom, but I've just been playing dolls for some 20 years now, pretending to know how to nurture my children, make decisions on their behalf, and protect them from harm. In reality, I'm just a scared little girl with way too much responsibility for my level of expertise. My children are in the process of leaving the nest now and I still don't feel like I ever became a knowledgeable expert at this mom thing. In fact, sometimes as I watch young moms feeding their children certain foods, taking them on certain field trips, and teaching them certain things, I feel even more inept and think to myself, "Oh my, I did it all wrong!"
  • a pastor's wife, but I'm just this silly little girl that somehow ended up in this de facto leadership role in the church because I married the man I married. Make no mistake, I feel that he is every bit the pastor he is, but I just don't know how I got to be the "first lady." I'm no super saint and I don't have the answers to anyone's problems. For Pete's sake, I don't even know where the 5-year-old Sunday school class meets and I don't have a key to anything!
  • a writer, not a real one anyhow, but that I just aspire to be. This is actually a common phenomenon among writers, I'm told. For some reason even after you've been legitimately published by a legitimate publisher and you receive a legitimate check for your work, you still don't feel like you're a legitimate writer, an author. When I've been to writers' conferences (even that doesn't make me feel legit) the "experts" even spent a lot of time having us say those magical words out loud to ourselves, "I'm an author. I write." Didn't do it for me. I still fear that any day now the "real writers" are going to knock on my door, storm into my house, rip my computer from the outlet, slap a citation on my desk, and storm out yelling, "We don't tolerate frauds!" Then one of them will do an about face, come back into my office and gather up the piles of magazines that contain my articles, tote them out the door and say snidely, "These don't really count, you know." It won't matter. I never thought they did anyhow.
 I don't know if this nightmare is unique to me or if it's something that someone out there might identify with, but I know that it has stuck with me for years. It's similar to that feeling that you've never really become an adult and that you still get to think about "what I'll be when I grow up." But it also carries shades of simply feeling that you're not an expert on anything.

By now shouldn't I be an expert on something? I see 20-somethings writing books and appearing on Good Morning America touting their expertise and I wonder when I'm going to become an aficionado on anything. And make no mistake about it--this is not just a matter of humility. I'm sure it's more insecurity than humility.

So that's where I'm at today. I'm sitting at my computer writing the additional four devotionals my official editor assigned me so I can meet my official deadline, but I'm not feeling very official at all. I'm trying to keep the re-occurring nightmare at bay, but I'm also watching my front door and expecting the official police any time now.

Anybody out there identify at all?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This is the Problem with Holidays!

So today I'm playing catch-up. I had a great time with the family over the Labor Day weekend and now I must pay the piper.

Thankfully, I have a lot of writing assignments right now (when it rains, it pours, and then...it doesn't), so I will be typing away most of the week. But first today Abby and I must head back to Tucson for doctor and dental visits - no fun, but we'll find a way :) So I got up extra early this morning to finish up preparing for tomorrow's Bible study lesson.

Today I'm praying for God to be God over my time, for Him to help me use it wisely. In fact, I'm giving Him permission to strong-arm me into using my time well if necessary. Sometimes that is required with me. I'm also asking Him to prioritize my days for me. I tend to need help there too.

And while my brain is on so many other things that I really can't think of anything especially witty or meaningful to give you, my dear bloggy friends, today, I still want to offer something. So I'll offer this prayer on your behalf and mine.

"Lord, thank you for the rest and rejuvenation afforded us
during the holiday weekend. May it have
splendidly lingering effects in our lives
this week. But now I pray that
you help each of us to accomplish all that
demands our attention and time. We don't
want to be spinning our wheels like the author
of Psalm 127 alluded to. We want our work, our 
labor, to have significance, meaning, and eternal
benefit. So, as the author of Psalm 90 pleads,
'Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
and do confirm for us the work of our hands;
yes, confirm the work of our hands.'
Thank you Lord, Amen."

Blessings to you all on this Monday, oops, I mean Tuesday!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is it Mommy Time? Enjoy!

I still remember the sweetness of those unrushed and unscheduled mornings. Not that there weren't a dozen things on my list I wanted to accomplish, but I had no one breathing down my neck to get them done, no firm schedule to abide by, and no doubt that the plans would inevitably change any how.

Those were the mornings of being a stay-at-home-mommy to a couple of sweet little preschoolers.

Sure, there were mornings when I lay in bed and silently wished I could don a sophisticated pencil skirt and silky blouse, slip into my heels and head off to an office job where I'd sip coffee with adults and then turn to a computer screen and actually accomplish something. Those mornings usually followed closely on the heels of a day filled with temper tantrums, diaper blowouts, failed craft ideas, sibling squabbles, and dinner time disasters. But most mornings I was honestly happy to be home with two needy, imperfect, temperamental, and messy little tikes.

Why would I exchange the opportunity to progress in my career as a technical writer to stay home and do extremely untechnical things? Why would I stop hobnobbing with computer programmers and accountants in order to teach children to eat with their utensils and flush the toilet? And why would I turn down the promotion and pay raise I had just been offered in order to scrimp and save so I could occasionally take my little charges to McDonald's for a playdate?

On those mornings when I questioned my decision to stay home with my children, I reminded myself that I had the daily privilege of drawing a beautiful picture on a blank slate. I got to set the stage each day for a play yet unwritten. And I got to witness, up close and personal, the miraculous blooming of a new variety of flower.

My children were like little sponges just waiting to soak up whatever I poured into them. I had the opportunity to fan their enthusiasm, feed their inquisitive minds, answer their bizarre questions, open their eyes to possibilities, and point them in the right direction. There couldn't possibly be anything of more significance for me to do. In fact, now that my children are soon to be 17 and 20, I know those were possibly my most significant years--those years when I was able to pour so much into such eager and wide open spaces. I love the work I do now and feel that investing in other women is certainly a significant calling, but I will never again have the opportunity to influence a life quite to the extent I did in those early mommy years. (And quite honestly, I don't think I have the energy to do so any how!)

I realize that not every mom gets to stay home with their kiddos in those early years, much less throughout their growing years the way I have. But every parent still has the opportunity to see those years of fast and steady formation as years of great importance. Every parent has moments when they can choose to wish the time away or make every minute count. Every parent has days when they can choose to run and hide or to dig in, engage, and invest. And every parent has days when they may question the validity of reading The Poky Little Puppy one more time, getting the finger paints out, making another trip to the pumpkin patch, building a tower of blocks just to watch it fall down, or cleaning the high chair...again. And on those days, every parent has the opportunity to see the big picture and hope and pray that they are somehow making steady progress toward the ultimate goal.

So today if you are home with little ones, enjoy. And if you are tempted to feel insignificant and like your life is somehow on hold while you babysit little munchkins, dismiss those ideas. You have important work to do today. Granted, that work can seem unappreciated, slow, and messy at times, but at least you can wear jeans, sit on the floor, and skip the make-up if you'd like. Besides being extremely significant, there are perks to the job.

Stay-at-home mom, work-from-home-mom, working mom, single mom. Whether you have all day with your child and you find yourself longing for adult conversation or you come home weary from work and could use a little peace and quiet, seriously consider the significance of the precious moments you have with your child. Make them count. And enjoy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

There Are No (Good) Words

  • Had a hunk of gunk removed from my right shoulder yesterday. Don't fret. I'd had it for over 14 years and it hadn't killed me yet, so it's not deadly. Just unsightly. Good riddance.
  • Although it was just a "procedure" and I just had local anesthesia, it was no walk in the park. Get a whole chicken, cut it apart with a kitchen knife, and listen carefully. That was what my little procedure sounded like. Heaven help!
  • According to the doctor (who wanted to show me what he'd cut out but I declined) chicken fat is what it looked like too. His words. I swear.
  •  My son called me right after my procedure yesterday. I was touched by the fact that he had remembered I was having my "operation" that day... then I came back to the planet I really live on..."Oh, was that today? I'm just running a little early for class and thought I'd call." Well, at least he called.
  • I generally sleep on my right side. You do the math = very little sleep last night = biting sarcasm today.
  • My friends and I joke about the fact that you know you're getting old when your conversation amounts to "How did you sleep last night?" "How is your ______ (back, stomach, knee, twitchy thing your eye has been doing, etc.)?" "When do you go back to the doctor?" I'm feeling really old lately. The only consolation? My friends are obviously getting old too.