December 6, 2017

Births & Deaths Change Everything

Today I changed the church sign and posted on one side "A Birth & A Death Changed Everything". I realized after putting it up, that while I feel it displays a Christmas type message and an Easter one for that matter, it is one of the truest statements in life that there may be. While Jesus was born solely to die for the sins of mankind, every birth and every death has an effect on those around them. They really do change everything for those whose lives are involved. 

Think about how much change comes to parents when a baby is born. Their sleep patterns change, their intimacy patterns change, their priorities change (hopefully!), their daily schedules change, heck, even their showering patterns change! lol Life as they once knew it has changed for a long period of time. Maybe the above mentioned things aren't changed forever but certainly their hearts are no longer fully their own. Once a parent, always a parent even if the time has passed of changing diapers, feedings, and training. Even when you become an empty-nester, you still tend to be there for your child. 

It is the same with death. When someone we love dies, our lives are forever changed. Depending on who it was and how close we were to them, even daily schedules may be different. We learn to go on, we learn to cope, we get back to the daily living of our lives fully aware to us but usually unaware to others around us that something is missing. Something is different. There are days we wonder what life would be like if so and so hadn't passed away when they did. We wonder how different things would be if our loved one was still alive. 

As I have expressed before in past blog posts, I have had many experiences with loss through death that forever changed the course of my life. Some things that would be different are obvious to me now, but others are still a mystery. Things can't be changed. Decisions were made and events have shaped who I am today. 

Some people don't get the privilege of experiencing a life change through a birth. Many live way into adulthood before ever experiencing change from a death. Interesting how some learn things at a young age and God allows others to wait until later in life for those learning moments. 

Whether we like it or not, births and deaths bring new norms to our lives. We must face those challenges and keep moving forward - adapt, adjust, improvise, overcome.

December 3, 2017

The Ornaments of Our Lives

Ornament -
1. Archaic - a useful accessory
2. something that lends grace or beauty
3. a manner or quality that adorns (enhances the appearance of)
4. one whose virtues or graces add luster to a place or society

We are going to look at how different things about our personalities are the ornaments that represent our lives.

We should be asking ourselves if they are ornaments that compliment or disgrace us in the sight of others.

I. Willingness to learn from authority 
           - Children from parents or guardians
Prov. 1:8-9 - My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
--Children & especially teens are know it alls and unwilling to listen and learn from parents

        - Church members from Pastor
Heb. 13:17 - Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
--many church members are just like teens and unwilling to heed advice and wisdom that a Pastor offers

II. Being wise or seeking to become wise
Prov. 4:5-9 - Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her and she shall keep thee.
Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all the getting get understanding.
Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
--wise people tend to have people be drawn to them, there's something alluring even graceful about a wise person

III. Being humble
1 Peter 3:3-4 - Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
--humbleness is a great ornament to wear and display in our lives

There are many personality traits that each of us display to the world around us like an ornament. They range from our clothing & makeup styles to our character and demeanor.

Ask Ourselves:
Are those personality ornaments displaying a useful accessory?
Do they lend grace or beauty to us?
Is it a quality that enhances our appearance or personality?
Does it add luster to a place or the world around us?

Let us strive to be an ornament of grace, beauty, and meekness that is willing to learn and gain wisdom. 

November 27, 2017

Killing the Spider

Several years ago I was at church camp with some teens and heard a preacher preach a message called Kill the Spider. It was a great message. I want to use that message I am recalling from memory to apply it to daily life. 

The premise is that when you find a spider web in your home, you don't just wipe away the web for the best kill the spider. Otherwise the web will be right back later. How true this is! The preacher back then focused on reminding the teens that they must kill the spiders and not just wipe away the webs in their music choices. You can't just get rid of music that isn't glorifying to God or to you but you must replace it with good music. If you don't replace the music you will just go back to the bad stuff. 

Now that I'm older and hopefully a bit wiser, I can see this philosophy in many areas of life. I am taking steps to become healthier. I need to get rid of the spiders in my body. I can't just say I will eat healthier today and exercise today. I must kill that spider of unhealthy foods and couch potato laziness and replace it with better food choices and movement! I must also make healthier choices in what chemicals and harmful things come in contact with my body. Soon I will be wiping away the webs of 
toxins that have built up in my liver, intestines and bloodstream. (I will be posting about that in the future) However, if I do not kill the spider of what allowed the toxins to build up in my body I will only have wiped away the web and it will return. 

I need to kill the spider of  apathy in my ministry. I must bring my thought life under control and replace negative, complaining thoughts with thoughts of gratitude for a place and people to serve and a reminder of a burden to help others in their spiritual walk.

Some people may need to kill the spider of routine. Yes,routine gives comfort but can become monotonous and lead to more webs of mundane living and often depression. Shake things up! Start doing something different each week so you can kill that spider. Don't just flop down in front of the TV after a game, go for a drive, go for a walk (adding in that exercise!), read a book, etc. Do something different at least once in the week. 

I think I have typed enough in this post for you to get the point. Don't just wipe away the webs...kill the spiders! 

November 12, 2017

Filling Someone's Shoes

I am someone who has always been given much responsibility even since childhood. I was often put in charge of my sister or all my cousins while the adult family members were off fishing as we camped or what have you. I was taught to be a responsible person even at a young age.

I have been reading through a book off and on entitled "Plucked from the Burning" over the past year. I don't get a lot of time being a pastor's wife to just read for my own enjoyment. This book is about a Baptist preacher who was the only survivor of a small plane crash in Missouri which took place back in the 80s. As a survivor of a car/train accident, I can relate to his recovery process although his was much more extensive than mine was. I'm nearing the end of the book and he had a chapter about survivor's remorse. Something in which he dealt for several years after the plane crash. I, too, dealt with guilt over surviving my accident when one did not. The author of the book was the only survivor and there were three other preachers on board which included the pilot. They were flying home from a preacher's convention. The man went on to say that for several years he would hold the newspaper article detailing the plane crash and which also included each man's pictures. He would pray and ask God to help him "finish their ministries". This went on for quite some time but then one night before bed as he prayed that same thing, he felt God burden his heart and seemed to put a new thought in his mind that said "Those men's ministries ARE finished. I want you to focus on what I want YOU to do". The man said he felt instant comfort and release from the burden he had felt for so long. 

As I read that at 4 in the morning (because I was having trouble sleeping), my heart was pricked and thoughts flooded my mind of "You are not your mom. Her work is finished on earth since she is now in heaven. It is not your responsibility to be her. You cannot fill her shoes, or replace her in everyone's life to fill the void nor should you try. Be the sister, cousin, mom, niece, and friend that you can be to those you are close with but stop trying to be her. It is not your responsibility to be the glue that holds the family together. It is not your responsibility to take over being grandmother to your child, or for your nieces and nephews. It is not your responsibility to take over being a mother to your sisters. 

As those thoughts came, I cried and had such a feeling of relief and burden lifted as I allowed it to sink in to my mind. I have felt for 6 years that I needed to step up and be all the things to everyone that my mom was so that everyone else can cope with life. After all, I am the one who is strongest and I am the one who knows how to handle crisis and I am the one who has always been put in charge to take care of everyone else so why wouldn't I step up to fill my mom's shoes? For the past three years I have been trying to do this long distance as I try to help my husband in the ministry here in our church. I fully believe those thoughts of letting go of trying to be something that's not my responsibility to be, came straight from the Holy Spirit of God.

The comfort and relief I now feel over this realization has brought peace to my mind. It will take a willful intent and determination to  act on this new realization and take a stand for myself. It will be hard to gently tell others that I will only fulfill my role to them as is in the natural course of things. I am not even sure that others realize that they have relied on me in this manner. Grief and trials of life make it hard to see things clearly sometimes. 

This has come at a great time because I have a need to focus on myself (not in a selfish way) but in a health issue way. Some things have developed that must be addressed and if I do not focus on fixing there, I will not be able to lend myself to others in the capacity God intended. From my research so far, this will not come quickly nor easily. It will take time for answers but I will have to be persistent, diligent and wise. 

Are you someone who is trying to fill some one's shoes who has left intentionally or who has passed away? Please give some serious thought to this post and make sure that the shoes you are trying to fill is what God expects you to do. In some cases the answer may be yes but in many it will be no! Live where and be what God has for you! 

November 8, 2017

The Texas Church Shooting

The shooting that took place at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas has the country mourning and scrambling for answers and fighting over the ins and outs of what has happened and for tighter gun control laws. 

When I hear eye witness accounts of what took place my heart actually aches over the sheer hatred that can cause such an event. Make no mistake, this WAS a hate crime! In my opinion ALL crime is a hate crime because you see Jesus said that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Only hatred in a person's heart can motivate to steal, to murder, to rape, to lie, to mock and ridicule or what have you towards another person. 

I am also proud and excited over heroes that stepped up and tried to intervene and stop what was happening. Praise the Lord such people still exist! 

I find it quite interesting that the media and even law enforcement are quick to say that this was not religiously motivated even though the man shot dead or wounded nearly every person present at the worship service in the church. This included infants! Eye witnesses said that if a child or baby cried the man targeted and shot them in cold blood. How does one do that?! Shoot a baby?! He yelled as he ran in "Everyone die!" Now, it is claimed that it was not religiously motivated just because there was a domestic dispute going on between the shooter and some of the church members. Really? Since the shooter is dead, I'm not quite sure how you can make that claim with certainty.  Would the media still claim this if the shooting had taken place in a mosque under the same circumstances? --with knowledge of a domestic dispute? - probably not. It would be claimed as a "hate" crime.

I believe if it was just domestic dispute related then the man could and probably would have chosen to go to their home and shoot the relatives. There is a reason he chose their church and church family! We may eventually know or we may never know but it could be possible that he was so angry at his wife or in-laws that he wanted to cause harm to anyone they held dear or it could have been that he hated anyone and anything to do with Christianity. Why did he choose the church setting? Why did he target every person in there he could see, even babies and children? 

One thing I believe we can be certain of is that he had no respect for human life. Personally, I believe he had no care of God or His Word. Crimes of passion are not usually premeditated. They are heat of the moment type of settings where anger takes over and crime is committed. This shooting was done with much thought and premeditation. 

Now, there are those out there running off at the mouth about Vice President Pence going to Sutherland to offer condolences and prayer to the victims and the town. Really? Can you be less sensitive and compassionate?! Pence and Trump are condemned no matter what action they take. In some opinions it is either not enough or too little too late or wrong timing, etc. I'm thankful our Vice President is a man of prayer and that he's vocal about it! I pray daily for God to give us leaders in this country who truly seek His face and His Wisdom. I'm thankful for the local pastors in the Sutherland area who have stepped in and rallied around the town and the church and lead in prayer on national tv. Prayer makes a difference! Prayer moves God! If you don't believe in it, that's your business but shut up about it when others rely on it for their very existence! Who is Pence hurting by going to Texas to pray with victims? It always seems to be okay for Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to fly somewhere and stir up hate and keep people divided but let someone in a leadership position go pray and everyone acts like it is a felony. No one is making you stand there and hear the prayer or take part. Leave Pence alone because there are people in Sutherland Springs, Texas hurting and who will be comforted by his coming.  

October 31, 2017

Raising Grateful Children

I think gratefulness is a trait that is almost gone in everyday society today, even among adults. The parents of the 80s and 90s which was the "Me generation", "I can have my cake and eat it too generation"; created the whiny, unsatisfied, give me more for free generation of today. We won't go into all that entails or of the hows and whys because it's not the point of this post. I want to focus on how to create grateful hearts in the newest children coming up such as my grandchildren.

I remember back when my own children were school age and we first got into church and started serving heavily in that aspect. We were constantly on the go and spending much time working with teens and I admit I had some guilt over possibly neglecting my own children. Sometimes I felt that I could curb that guilt and appease my children by allowing them to get things at the store ...candy or a small toy. Well, since we humans are creatures of habit it didn't take them long to get "spoiled" to this and become increasingly vocal and expecting of it. Well, at one time we were spending so much time in the car on the go and had developed a habit of getting snacks and food at the gas station to "tide us over" until we could have a meal later. I remember the wake up call was one day when my son was in maybe 2nd grade and we were at home. He asked if we could go to the gas station because he was hungry! Now mind you, there were snacks and food in the pantry and refrigerator! Yet, the habit had been formed over the past few weeks and in his mind the only way to satisfy hunger was to go to the gas station! Ding, ding, ding, the warning bells went off immediately! 

So, what are some ways we can develop gratefulness in our children? How about let them first and foremost see it in us?! Don't let them see you being whiny about wanting something different or more than you already have. Children absolutely learn what they live! Just be thankful (which goes hand in hand with grateful) for every monetary thing you have in your life! Be thankful to others who may have given it and mostly be thankful to God because the Bible says that every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights! 

Another way is to let them see others less fortunate than them. When my kids were younger we started a yearly thing of taking wrapped presents to Children's Hospital at Christmas time. I let them help me pick them out and wrap them and they went with me to drop them off at the hospital. I would explain to them how blessed they were to be healthy and at home for Christmas. 

Let them serve in a soup kitchen with you or drive them to see a poorer neighborhood so that they can see first hand how others live and how not to take for granted the warm, nice home they live in. 

Sheltering children from all negative aspects of society does them harm. When they enter adulthood (which is what you are preparing them lead productive, successful lives after they are grown and have left your house) they need to know and appreciate where they came from and what they had and that not everyone was as blessed as they were. Some children have illnesses that they fight daily, some children live in hunger on a daily basis, some children have few clothes or even clean clothes and some don't have a warm home to sleep in at night. It is not enough just to lecture them about it. Seeing it first hand will drive the message home much faster. 

Example and yes, sometimes contrast is the best way to let someone learn. As the old saying goes, do not point out the crookedness of a stick, simply lay a straight stick beside it! Also, remember children learn what they see lived daily in you! 

Judged or Just Self-Conscious?

Often times we get our feathers ruffled because we think that someone is standing in judgment of us about how we look, dress, keep our homes, raise our children, spend our money, or any number of issues. This sort of goes along with a blog post I made some time ago about the voices in our heads. If you haven't read it you can find it on my blog page. 

We THINK we are being judged or looked down upon but in reality it is often just in our own minds. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The reasons being but not limited to, being self-conscious or insecure about our own choices, being convicted of sin in our own lives that is revealed when next to someone else doing right, jealousy in our hearts over someone else having better or more and the list could go on for reasons. 

My point is, that often it is just not true that someone is judging you. The average person is quite frankly too busy in their own lives to constantly sit in judgment of you and your 
choices. There may be times that a person or group of people may have wrong or stray thoughts about you but I don't believe they are standing around with gavel in hand doling out judgmental thoughts. If you feel uncomfortable (because that is actually why you are feeling judged), perhaps you should make a different choice about what you are feeling uncomfortable about the next time. 

Let me give some examples...If you feel judged because you gave your child a Hostess cake for breakfast and told another mother you did that and you felt she looked at you as though you were a horrible parent, then I suggest that next time, don't tell others what you did, OR give your child something more nutritious tomorrow! (I personally don't think it's the end of the world or going to kill them if you are at least satisfying the growling belly by giving them a Hostess cake for breakfast! Obviously, don't do this 5 days a week or you can cause health issues!) If you feel judged (embarrassed) because someone dropped by to visit and your house was a disaster and unclean, then try harder to keep a neater, cleaner home. If you are a lady that wears pants most of the time yet you are out with a group of other ladies or attend a church where many ladies wear only skirts and dresses and you feel as though they judge you, you need to get over your own insecurities and stand on your own choices. You must have a reason that you choose what you wear so don't be wishy-washy about it. You have made a choice so stand by it. My only advice is stop making choices based on peer pressure. Know what you believe and why you believe it! Know why you make your choices and stand on those choices. 

As you are wondering in your mind if someone is judging your choices...are you judging theirs? Are you judging another mother because she chose to bottle feed instead of breast feed? Are you judging another couple because they home school instead of sending their child to public school or vice versa? Are you judging another lady BECAUSE she wears only skirts? Do you think she is snobby or self righteous when she has never even mentioned your pants to you? Do you judge homemaking habits of other women? See, the door of judgment swings wide both ways! So be careful when worrying whether or not others are judging you when you may be judging them also. 

The truth of the matter is, often it is just in our own self conscious minds that we are being judged. So, let's just live our lives and do the best we can and do our best to make choices that we believe are right for us. Make better choices when we need to or when we feel "judged".