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Archive for July, 2012

Want Versus Need

Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

We have recently moved our littlest out of his crib and into his big boy bed.  I forgot how much I hated starting over in the sleep department, but who am I kidding?  He never has slept as well as his siblings so we were still a work in progress.  But, as we now start the new fight of keeping him in his bed, I found myself saying the other day, “It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you need,” in response to his wanting to get up for the fortieth time.

That got me thinking.  How many of us live our lives striving for what we want instead of what we need?  I know that I’m just as guilty of that as our son.  I think it’s a natural instinct.  I want chips, cookies, and candy, even though I need to stop eating before I get a stomachache.  I want to stay up and watch TV with my husband, but I really need to go to bed since 3:30 a.m. comes too early.  I want that extra pair of shoes, but I need to have money this month to pay for summer camp.  I want to be lazy, but I need to exercise so I have energy to get my work done.

I think its human nature to take the easy road, for our automatic response to be the “easy button.”  However, God wants more for us than that.  He wants us to look at the big picture.  He wants us to live a life of obedience.  He wants us, in faith, to turn to Him to supply our needs.  He wants us to trust Him and to make decisions that are Biblically based.

So, the next time I am at war with myself about whether or not to have a smorgasbord of food when my stomach only needs a salad, I’m going to remember what I told my son, “It’s not about what I want, it’s about what I need.”  Hopefully then I will be at peace that I’m living the life God designed for me, willingly taking care of the wants, trusting God to supply any needs that He desires – maybe even sometimes in the form of a concrete mixer at Culver’s.

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I Samuel 16:7:  “…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV)

My kids are always joking that when I eventually die (hopefully not for a long, long time), they will remember me as someone who loved coffee.  One of our daughter’s first words was “Iced Mocha.”  However, as much as I don’t mind being remembered for how much I love coffee (and I do), I want them to remember more one important message:  I care more about the condition of their heart than I do their actions.

One message that my husband and I repeatedly talk about in our house is the reason behind what is done.  We know our kids will make mistakes, and they know that.  We tell them repeatedly that we don’t want perfect children – who would?  I need a little more adventure in life than that.  What we do want is integrity and our kids working toward having the right heart attitude.

We realize that being caught in disobedience is not a fun place to be.  Our kids are starting to realize they will get off the hook much easier when they own their mistake, do what they can to make it right, and then we all move on.  They will have a much tougher and longer consequence if we are addressing not just the mistake but a bad heart attitude as well.  Then there will be consequences for both the original offense and the offense of trying to cover it up or put the blame on someone else.  Sometimes, to their surprise, if they own up to their fault in the beginning, they will have no consequence at all.

That’s the way my husband and I try to live our lives.  We’re not perfect either and we try not to pretend that we are.  When we make a mistake, we admit our fault.  We take responsibility for our part and do what we can to make it right, again, not always perfectly.  That is what we feel God calls us to do, and therefore, it is important to us that our children learn that lesson now instead of later.

Admitting your wrong is uncomfortable.  It’s definitely not what society teaches.  It’s easier to pass the blame to someone else, usually an innocent victim, or come up with lots of reasons to validate why a particular action was necessary.  Some people have a true gift of putting some sort of spin on their deed to make it seem almost a crime not to have made that decision.

I would rather tell the truth.  I would rather teach my kids to tell the truth, not just when it’s easy but especially when it’s hard.  Even if it means someone will be mad at them.  Even if means there is a consequence to pay.  I answer to only One and He can see my heart all the time – whether I hide it from others or expose it out in the open.  Because of that, I can only have real peace when I’m living the truth all the time.  It’s not always easy, but it’s the best way.  That is what I hope my children remember about me – that the condition of the heart is more important than my actions, even if they picture me saying it with a cup of coffee in my hand.

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Mirror Image

I Samuel 16:7: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Mike works at lot of overtime.  One explanation could be that he is a dedicated employee and has a strong work ethic.  However, a different reason could be that Mike is lazy and would rather sit in his office shuffling papers but not really being productive so that his wife is left doing the household chores and raising their children.

The same scenario can have two very different motives, but to the casual observer, each reason has the same outward appearance.

Isn’t that how life works?  Staying late at work can make you the hero in the office, but you are really trying to get out of mowing the grass at home.  When you joke with your circle of friends that your husband doesn’t know which end of the screwdriver to use it can seem funny, when in reality you are trying to get back at him for not taking out the trash last night.  How about assigning your children extra chores around the house with the excuse that you are teaching them responsibility when honestly you just hate vacuuming.

It’s easy to manipulate people regarding your motive since the same action can look very different when the tone of your voice or a facial expression is tweaked.  However, even though people are easily swayed, God can never be deceived.  God knows our heart and the real reason behind our actions.

It’s important to line up the reasons we do things with what we are doing.  God would rather we say no to serving on the PTA for the seventh year in a row than to lie and say our great grandmother is sick, and “going to die soon. ”  He would also rather we honestly tell our kids, “I hate vacuuming – let’s negotiate,” instead of pretending we are teaching responsibility.

The more authentic and honest we are with ourselves, the easier it is to be honest with others.  By taking that approach, we won’t always get what we want, but we can at least close our eyes at night with the assurance that we didn’t lie, we didn’t try to make ourselves look better than we really are, and when we are complimented, it’s for something we really did, not what someone thought we did.  Knowing that God is pleased that my actions and my intent line up is the best feeling of all!

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Spaghetti Squash

Mark 10:7-8: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

We started growing spaghetti squash for the first time this year.  As it grows, it spreads out so that it’s hard to tell where the roots are versus the vines, making it a little difficult to know I’m watering the right part.

I started to think about my marriage.  My husband is the root (the head of our household) and I am the vine (the helpmate, his partner).  I want to have the kind of marriage where my husband and I both receive the right amount of sun (Son) and water (God’s word) in our lives to help us grow, interconnect, and thrive.  I want us to work together as a united front to help our fruit (children) grow and blossom down their own individual paths.  I want one of our purposes in life to be to spread in various directions serving others and ministering as a couple and individually.  Lastly, I feel it’s important for us to make time to enrich ourselves individually, all while staying closely connected to each other, and most importantly, to God himself.  That is the picture of a true partnership for me.

What about you?  Would you consider your marriage to be spaghetti squash?  Are you raising your children as a united front, allowing them to grow and blossom, taking time to better yourself as an individual, and then reaching out to serve others together as a couple?  If not, what can you do to move a little closer in that direction?

When we started our garden this spring, I never thought that the spaghetti squash was all that terrific, but I’m starting to think it might just be my favorite vegetable.

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Corn versus Cucumbers

Matthew 23:12: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

I realized something this past weekend.  Corn stalks look strong, like a tree trunk, but in actuality, they are really quite weak.  The littlest amount of pressure can either bend them, or completely break them off.

That got me thinking about that bully at your child’s school, the annoying co-worker who constantly needles your faith or your clothes or your preference for music, not to mention the road rage driver, crabby waitress, or nosy neighbor.  Are all these people really that strong, or are they more like corn stalks and when a little pressure is applied, their value and character crumbles?

Cucumber vines, on the other hand, are quite sturdy.  There vines look delicate and fragile, including the beautiful flowers, but they are tough.  They grow up, around, under, and through just about anything.  And, to try and break a vine off or unravel it from a fence requires a little bit of muscle.

I want to be less like a corn stalk and more like a cucumber vine.  I want to be someone who is delicate and sweet on the outside but has a sturdy base formed by strong character.  I want to be someone who doesn’t sway easily regarding my convictions but is still willing to listen to other people’s opinions.  I want to be someone who will stand up for what I believe in but does it without bulldozing over people or their feelings.  I want to be someone who is the same at home as I am with my friends as I am when I’m worshipping – that people will know who I am no matter what environment they happen to find me in.

So…The next time someone frustrates me in life or comes across as a little overbearing, I am going to ask myself the question if they are a corn stalk or a cucumber vine.  Only really looking at the “produce” of their life will give me the answer.  It might mean I have to take some time to get to know them, or at least give them the benefit of the doubt until their character is revealed.  Eventually, their true self won’t be able to hide.  Hmmmm….now that’s food for thought!

 

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“Dear Heavenly Father, Your Word tells me that I am a letter being read by everyone. I pray that I won’t be junk mail today. I pray that I won’t be like a bill making people feel like they owe me. I pray that I will be a love letter, a thank you note, and an invitation to celebrate life.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.”  (www.girlfriendsingod.com)

 

Wow – After the day I had earlier this week, the prayer above really convicts me.  I could blame it on the Heatwave, excessive stress, change in routine, any number of things.  Honestly, though, it all boils down to me making the choice to let my emotions have the best of me.  I wasn’t only miserable myself, but I managed to spread my bad mood to those I love the most too.

I think God showed me that prayer on purpose today.  You see, I realized yesterday, even as I was saying the words in a not-so-nice tone, how I sounded and how unfair I was being.  So, last night, I first asked forgiveness from my Heavenly Father for being such a poor example to those He entrusted to me as well as those unfortunate souls who happened to cross my path.  Then I apologized to my kids themselves for being “the wicked witch of the mid-West.”

This morning, I was determined to have a different sort of day.  I asked questions instead of accused, found things to compliment my kids about instead of criticizing, and even though it’s my job to keep my children focused on “completing tasks to their best ability,” I chose the better way to go about that goal.

When I opened the cupboard to grab a container and everything fell out on top of me, my response was much different this morning than it would have been yesterday.  Did I let my kids off the hook for their laziness?  No, but I was very clear in my expectations, delivered with love this time.  Does that mean that they were thrilled to hear the message today because it was told in a different tone of voice?  No, but that isn’t the point.

I am realizing, and the prayer above just reemphasizes, that it is my responsibility to show this world an accurate example of Christ’s love.  I am God’s letter.  If I am going to proclaim that I am a Christ follower, then I need to show Christ in my life always, not just when my hair looks good, the scale shows numbers I like, and the temperature is in the low 80s with a breeze.  I will even take my convictions one step further.  I think it’s more important to show Christ when in the middle of a Heatwave, my stress level is through the roof, or Murphy’s Law has decided to set up camp in my front yard.  People who are looking to see if Christ is the answer to their life are going to look, probably doubly hard, at how a Christ follower handles life on a day-by-day basis, during good and bad days.  And, even though I won’t get it right all the time, I pray that I’m learning from my mistakes (like yesterday) and will do better the next time.  After all, I don’t want to be accused of false advertising.

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Burden or Blessing?

Colossians 1:10:  “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”(NIV).

Have you ever had one of those days…weeks…months…years?  When you know that you are crabby and you can’t do anything about it…or at least you aren’t trying hard enough to change your attitude or perspective on life?  That nothing really horrible has happened to cause your bad mood…maybe instead you just are being a little too self-centered and not enough other-focused?

Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but that has been me for the past few days.  It all started with what I perceived as an injustice because my weekend didn’t go as I had planned.  Do you see the common thread in the sentence written above – “my weekend, I planned?”  Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, I chose to continue my bad attitude even while realizing I am blessed beyond measure and my family, loved ones, and friends didn’t deserve to be subjected to my “spoiled brat” treatment.

This went on until God woke me up early five days later.  (I’m sometimes a slow learner.)  Despite His seemingly endless patience with us as His children, just like biological parents, I think He was finally telling me, “Enough is enough.”  He didn’t yell at me, He didn’t punish me by inflicting some sort of ailment or tragedy in my life – no, He lovingly reminded me that I was very blessed in life and needed to get my focus back in the right direction.  I needed to refocus on Him and all the good in my life.  I needed to start being a blessing to others instead of continuing to be a burden.  I was really convicted.  Not only had I hurt my Heavenly Father by my self-imposed selfishness, but I was hurting my family as well.  They hadn’t done anything to deserve my bratty behavior.

After confessing to God for being a burden for the last five days, I vowed to find ways to be a blessing instead.  Putting my focus back where it should be – on imitating Christ to others.

The irony of it all – When I am focused on “blessing myself” (which in turn burdens others to cater to my every whim), the blessings I receive fall short of my expectations.  However, when I focus on blessing others and living the way my Heavenly Father wants me to, then He chooses when and how to bless me.  And I have to say, those blessings usually knock my socks off.  They are bigger, better, and far more imaginative than I could ever think of to bless myself with.  And, I don’t know about you, but when I have to ask for something, it’s never as sweet as when someone catches me off guard and surprises me with a gift, token, act of service, whatever the surprise may be.

Not only do I hate the way I “look” when I’m turned inward and selfish, but I hate how I feel as well.  I truly do not like being a burden to others, but at times do the very thing I hate.  I think it’s time to apologize to those I have burdened for the last five days and start looking for ways I can bless them instead.  I have some wasted time I need to make up for.

What does your life look like today – are you being a burden or a blessing?

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