Thursday, June 26, 2014
She slammed the car door, turned the ignition and the car revved to a start. Without a moment of hesitation, she pulled the gearshift into drive and sped down the road. Her anger burned in her gut as she wiped the frustrated tears from her eyes. The fact that she was crying over this whole thing made her even madder and without signaling, she whipped her car onto the next street on her right. She had to get out of here! Just as she turned the corner, she heard a loud crash of thunder and big fat raindrops appeared on her windshield. Perfect! The weather matched her stormy mood and she urged the car to go faster. It was now raining so hard that the wipers weren't cutting it and she didn't see the sharp left turn ahead. Her tires squealed as she hit the breaks quickly to avoid swerving off the road and landing in the deep gully on the other side. Unnerved, she pulled off to the side of the road and took a deep breath. It's time to slow down and think about this before going any farther.
Unswervingly...is it even a word? When we swerve to avoid something in the road, we depart from the directed path of the road. We go off course for a second. So, I know how to swerve...do I know how to do something unswervingly? Logically, one could think that unswervingly means without swerving...staying ON the directed path and staying ON course.
The Hebrews verse above says we are to hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess. We are to stay on course with that hope and stay on the directed path. WHY? Or, better yet, HOW? The last part of that verse says that He who promised is faithful. Look at these promises:
"I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths." -- Proverbs 4:11
"A person's steps are directed by the Lord. How can anyone understand their own way?" -- Proverbs 20:24
If we believe that God keeps His promises and He promises to lead us and direct our steps, the HOPE of that belief will keep us on the right path. We just have to hold on to that HOPE unswervingly. Life, circumstances, our emotions and our hearts will try to knock us off our directed course. Like the girl in the scenario above, when we let our emotions rule us, go, go, go and don't stop to think through something, swerving is sometimes the only thing we can do to avoid the collision ahead of us. God is more powerful that the worst storm and more forgiving than we deserve. Even if we do swerve and lose sight of our path altogether, He will lead us back on the right path if we allow Him to.
There have been many times when I swerved and went off the path that was in front of me. There have even been times when I didn't hold unswervingly to the hope that comes from God's promises. During those dark times I felt weak, vulnerable and alone. It was like I was stuck in the deep gully off the side of the road I was supposed to be on I couldn't figure out how to get out. From the gully, I reached out to God and He heard me. He lifted me up, instructed me how to get back on the wise path and my HOPE was restored!
Our lives are filled with twists and turns...there will always be opportunities for us to swerve off the road. God wants us to rest in the hope that our faith in Him provides for us. There is always a way back to the right course. THAT is what I am unswervingly holding on to!
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Again, I am reminded of the fact that teaching a lesson to a group of kids at KidsPraise often does more for me than it probably does for the kids! The Ephesians verse above was what we worked on this past Sunday. We are focusing on friendship this summer and this lesson was teaching kids to be patient and gentle with their friends...even when they are annoying.
Well, can I just say this...teenage kids are...annoying! Parenting an almost 18 year old is not fun most of the time. Parenting is NOT for sissies! There is such a battle of the wills going on. My daughter is trying to figure out who she is and enjoying new found freedom. She is learning how to make her own decisions, make money by working for someone else, manage her own money, and spending most of her time away from home with her friends. As her parent, I am trying to get her to still keep up with her chores, respect the authority of the people who still take care of her (her dad and me,) keep her from making life-changing mistakes and I would love to spend some quality time with her every now and then. Many times, what she is trying to do and what I am trying to do collide and cause tempers to flare, voices to raise, feelings to get hurt and the relationship between her and I to suffer. This is not a new story. This same story has been going on since the beginning of time. It is the natural way of things. Children are SUPPOSED to grow up, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and become independent adults who do not need their parents as much any more. If I KNOW this in my mind why is it so HARD and why does it hurt so much in my heart?
Two things struck me this morning as I was reading my daily devotional and thinking about my daughter. First of all, I need to trust God. He is in control of EVERYTHING, even when things seem to be in chaos. Even if she makes huge mistakes, God will still be there for her. I have raised her to know God, love Jesus and trust in the faith that God is a loving and forgiving God. Even if she runs away from this for a while as she is growing up and learning who she is, I trust in the fact that the seed of that faith will remain in her heart and it will bring her back. Secondly, I need to listen to the KidsPraise lessons I teach. As her mother, I need to take the Ephesians 4:2 verse to heart each and every day.
** Don't be proud at all. Ok, I will be honest with you and with myself...many times my daughter's behavior is more about how people will look at ME instead of how they look at her. What will people think of me if my daughter makes mistakes? What kind of mother does that make me? Yep...pride goes before a fall. It is natural for me to think like this, but I need to be aware of this pride thing, acknowledge it for what it is and put it behind me. It really doesn't matter what other people think of me or my parenting skills. What matters is my daughter and doing what is best for her.
** Be completely gentle. That word completely is the one that is hard. Really...you mean I shouldn't yell and scream when I feel like it? Balancing being gentle with her feelings and saying the hard things that mothers need to say is very difficult. But the ego of an 18 year old is completely fragile and I need to remember that. Yelling and picking at her has NEVER worked...why is that the first thing that my flawed personality flies to? I need to count to 10...calm down...think before I talk...stay gentle but firm...keep my voice low and easy.
** Be patient. This too shall pass. A good friend of mine who has been through this same thing with her daughter and came out on the other side has reassured me that this constant battle is only temporary. It's part of the growing process...I need to let her work though this stage of her life with support, forgiveness, calmness and understanding.
** Put up with one another in love. Gee! You mean I have to PUT UP with eye rolling, a lack of respect, heavy sighs, the obligatory "I know, Mom." ???? Yep! I think it is still my job to make her aware that this kind of behavior is still not appropriate, no matter her age, but I need to do so in a gentle and patient manner. I know she loves me. I love her. We have to put up with each other!
Most importantly, I need to remember that none of this is possible on my own. It is in my human nature to yell, scream, argue, punish and feel bad when things don't go my way. I need to constantly be in prayer that God will guide me and give me the wisdom, strength and endurance I need to be the kind of mother that lives this Ephesians 4:2 verse every day. Only when I give up and let God guide me will I be able to do these things.
I hope these lessons that I am learning and sharing here can help another mother going through the same thing! And...I hope I can remember them tonight...when my daughter gets behind the wheel for the first time! God bless us both! :-)
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Have you ever carried a heavy box for a long distance or hefted an awkward backpack on your shoulders on a long hike? How about carrying the dead weight of a sleeping child from the car to her bed in the dark? All of those actions are hard work and take endurance to complete.
I also invite you to think about a time in your life when you felt the weight of a difficult problem or situation. We all have things like that happen in our lives that weigh us down making it hard to just make it through each day. It feels like walking up a steep mountain with the heavy pack of a soldier pushing us down to the ground. Each step is difficult and we get the point that we don't think we can make it five more feet, let alone make it to the top.
I have been there. I know what that feels like. In times like those I remember something Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." -- Matthew 11:28-29
What the heck does that really mean? How do I GO to Jesus? How can I take his yoke? Huh? I know, it doesn't seem to make sense. I have found that when I am weighted down with a problem, all I have to do is say the name Jesus...yep, that's it. Just say Jesus and believe in my heart he is listening and feels the heaviness I am carrying and helps me lift it, making it easier to carry. Just that belief and that simple action has helped me so many times.
"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalm 68:19 NIV)
I don't understand how just saying the name of Jesus helps and makes me feel better and allows me to work through whatever issue is weighing me down, but I do understand that it has worked for me time and time again. God is just THAT good and THAT powerful!
Are you feeling weighed down by something today? Just say the name Jesus and have confidence that God is listening and will bless your faith and lift your load and help you carry it through!
Saturday, June 7, 2014
I"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NIV)
There are days I don't feel equipped to do anything. I feel my skills as a mother stink sometimes. At times I don't feel smart enough to be a good academic librarian. I have burned my share of suppers, so my cooking skills are lacking at times. I have been in situations when a friend is asking for advice on a difficult problem and I just don't know what to say. I have had a child ask me a hard question about the Bible or about God and I don't know how to answer. Yep, there are MANY times I am poorly equipped.
However, since I trust God and His word, I know that He will provide me with exactly what I need to do the things he has called me to do, and in His perfect timing. He has done this for me more times than I can count. I know I just named several times when I felt ill equipped, but I could also name HUNDREDS of situations when I knew just what to say, just what to do or just what to write. I am not smart enough to do that on my own, so I believe it was God giving me the skills I needed to do what He needed me to do.
I also trust God to provide for me when I am weak. In the last several years I have gone through cycles of being content and satisfied with my life to times of confusion, boredom and complete dissatisfaction. I feel called to do something and I pray for guidance and I hear nothing clearly. During those times, and lately they have been many, my mind, body and soul seem very weak and I just flounder along each day, not moving forward in my life at all. I drift away from my quiet time with God and cry a lot and wonder if I will ever shake these feelings. I have a feeling a lot of this comes from middle age and menopause creeping in, but that doesn't help me deal with it. During it all, though, I have kept the faith and hope that God does love me came has not left me. I TRUST that He will bring me out of this, just as He has many times before.
In the last week, just like the sun breaking through after a bad storm, I feel my funk is lifting! I have returned to my daily morning quiet times on my sunporch and I have been reading some good books and checking my daily Bible verse. I have also been reading the daily devotional that is being provided for the kids and families in our church this summer. All of this has helped me feel the closeness of God again! See, He is again equipping me to get back to the good works He is putting before me!
Thank you for this BEAUTIFUL morning! Thank you for the birds singing to me, for the warm sunshine on my neck, and for your words that bring me hope and comfort. Thank you for once again lifting me out of the funk I let myself fall into. Thank you for equipping me and helping me get ready to serve you and for whatever is coming my way! I hope whoever reads this message today reaches out to you as I have and feels you equipping them as well! I am ready to face the day! Amen.