Thursday, November 9, 2017

Return Calls

Have you ever called and left a message or emailed a loved and trusted friend about an important matter only to wait and wait to hear a reply and not get one? How does it feel?

If this is someone you love and trust, do you simply wait, do you send another correspondence, do you call again, do you stalk their answering machine or voice mail?

Do you assume they are thinking about your dilemma and trying to come up with good advice, an appropriate response, or even an answer?

Or do you assume they just don't want to be bothered by you, think your problem is silly, or that your issue doesn't really merit their time?

I have had a struggle that has lasted for years, one that I never expected, and one that has seemed insurmountable. I have been stalking God about it for a long time, and prayed and prayed.

I started with prayers of "please fix this, " to "help me understand," to "help me change me." And finally, "Hey are you even there? Really, are you listening, because I've called on this one about 5,000 times and have you checked your machine lately? It must be broken!" 

Funny how my talks with God on this one have become. Because I really want it fixed for crying out loud and fixed now already! To get to the point that I'm asking if He's even there listening was a super low point for me. And this time, I let Him know that that's how I was feeling, ALONE.

You know what He did? He heard me! And this is what happened. Shortly after this prayer I had two conversations with dear and trusted friends that I admire greatly. Conversations that I didn't initiate about this problem. Yet these two dear friends described issues and heartaches very similar to mine! I didn't really have to share too much about my issue, because I knew they too were in pain, and suddenly knowing I wasn't alone helped. More than that, knowing that He was listening and wanted me to know I was heard and that I'm not alone filled my empty, aching heart.

In the many times I have earnestly sought Him in prayer, I may not have gotten the answers I was seeking. For example, "fix this." He hasn't "fixed it," but that doesn't seem to be the plan right now to fix it. It seems like there is much, much more that needs to happen, not only for me, but for the others involved. "Help me understand," while I don't understand why this is going on, or what He has in store for us in all this, I do understand some things much better now. "Help me change me," that is definitely happening. I am changing. And realizing how much I need to change. I often joke that I stopped praying for patience years ago, because I really didn't want him to make me learn patience. He is helping me have experiences that are teaching it to me anyway. Yes, God has a sense of humor.

I am so grateful for these two friends who don't even know they were part of a Heavenly answer that day. But I know them well enough to know that they recognize promptings and by acting on them, they were an answer to prayer to me. They were the return phone call/email/text that I very much was begging for. They filled me with God's love. I'm also grateful that He gave me the gift to see that as His return call. It makes me wonder how many times I may have overlooked His answers because I was looking for the "fix."

I'm not going to stop calling Him on this. I still need answers and guidance. But hopefully I will be more aware of the answers He does send. Hopefully, I will also be wise enough to hear his Spirit whisper to me when He is trying to answer someone else's desperate plea.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pray On!

I was listening to a Christian radio station when someone shared a thought that has resonated with me in so many ways. Please know this is not my thought, but I have to share because it was amazing.

The idea was this, what would happen if God answered the prayer you said this morning?

Would anyone else's life be affected?

Did your prayers include anyone else? If so, were they specific? When you were calling on Heaven, did you have a purpose in mind?

I couple this with some recent thoughts of my own.

Am I so busy going to the Lord with my own agenda, have I even thought of Him? What did I think? Did I think to express my love to Him? I do that each morning with my family, do I also do that with my Heavenly Father? Have I asked what His agenda may be and how I may be useful to Him that day?

There was a man in our church who I loved to listen to his prayers, because he truly recognized the Lord for who He is. He would begin his prayers with words like these, "Almighty God, creator of all that was, is and ever will be..." and then he would give thanks. That greeting to the Lord always humbled me in my seat, to reverence the Creator.

Have I taken the time to notice his daily gifts to me?

There was a different man at church who I remember thanking the Lord for "the beautiful crisp, white glittering snow that blanketed the trees." He was so purposeful in noticing the beauties of the daily gifts of God that listening to him pray made me notice those gifts more fully and also be thankful.

There was a woman years ago that prayed as though the Lord was sitting directly in front of her. She spoke to Him in reverence and conversation, that made me at times take a peak and see if He was right there! Her prayers made me think about the relationship of Him as my Heavenly Father.

The prayer group I belonged to taught me about the power of group prayer. Many voices of many faiths all praying to the same Being who loved them all. Thanking, asking, noticing in all ways.

I also read somewhere that "the prayers of yesterday are not enough for the world today."  That gave me pause. Are my prayers enough? What does that mean?

Am I acknowledging God for who He is?

Do I recognize His bounteous blessings?

Am I being specific in who/what I am praying for?

Am I praying for others and their welfare as fully as I do for myself?

If just one of my prayers in one day was answered, would anyone else be blessed? Would my Heavenly Father know that I appreciate who He is? Would He know that I see and recognize His hand in my life, my surroundings, my world? Would I feel His presence still with me because the conversation was ongoing?

I have to say, I need to be more thoughtful in my prayers. I'm so grateful to have heard this idea. I hope that today it will help you in your relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I pray that we will be able to see God more fully in our lives, world, and the miracles all around us, and that as we do, we will acknowledge His greatness, we will trust His ability and we will help bring to pass His plans.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Christians: Get Over Yourselves!

Last week I received a "share" on Facebook that sort of sickened me.

It was a clip of a preacher who had been visited by someone of another faith, and in this clip it was pretty clear that the preacher felt he had the corner on the market on faith, prayer and knowledge and what these other people believed was completely wrong.

While I am not of their faith, it saddened and sickened me for a few reasons.

First of all, mocking another for their beliefs, is not only sad, but as Christians, it is so beneath us.

Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, the Savior made it clear that it is our job to "love one another, as I have loved you."  Let that sink in a minute.

Who are we to decide whether someone else is right or wrong in their belief of the Bible? You are entitled to your opinion, but even if you disagree with someone else's interpretation, it is not up to you to decide if they are right or wrong. Not your job! It is His to judge.

The Savior himself, expressed His displeasure with the Pharisees who were judging others. They judged Him, the Savior, for not washing before dinner. And he didn't mince words with them calling them "fools" and saying, "Woe unto you".

I cannot tell you the number of times I have been accused of, or not considered Christian, because I am the "wrong brand".  Really?

It doesn't really bother me, because I know better, but it bothers me that as religious people, we tolerate that kind of teaching from those within our churches. Have you ever been in church and heard another denomination maligned? I have and it drives me nuts!! Rarely have those people ever known someone of that faith, watched them hold onto their faith through trials, or asked questions of what they really believe, rather than what "they've heard."

Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, if they weren't (fill in the blank with a religion) they probably wouldn't have that trial/problem.

Last I checked, I don't know of a single religion whose people don't have problems and trials. Why? Maybe because God is trying to make us more like Him and more reliant on Him.

I wasn't raised as a young child in the religion I have chosen, I went to a private school of another religion, and it was there that several of the questions they couldn't answer helped me to find the beliefs I have now. However, even though that church wasn't where I wound up, I'm so grateful for the goodness of its people and for many of the teachings, as well as not being able to answer my questions.

Let's face it, we all want to be right. But we will never be right by mocking others, not loving others, not allowing ourselves to ask questions of our own faith as well as ask genuine questions of others. And then if we need to agree to disagree, so be it. The Judge will take care of it in the long run.

Our greatest challenge is to love others. If we can do that and bring others to Christ, we have no need to fear. But if we mock each other and send people away from the Savior because we are too busy judging and being right, we lose. We lose BIG.

I'm not perfect in my faith, but frankly, I don't know anyone who is. We are not here to be perfect, someone already did that. We are here to follow His example the best we can. That may come in calling out the Pharisees, but more often it will be in reaching out to the sick, the poor, the hurting and suffering, the lonely, those faltering in their faith.

So my fellow Christians it is time to get over ourselves and get on to being the best follower of Christ that we can be. Let's embrace the good things we see in each other as we practice our faiths, as we see the goodness in other churches, in other believers.

There probably has never been a time where we are needed more collectively than right now. So let's unite in our faith in Christ and uphold each other in our respective faiths. Let's respect each other's faith and show this world what believers really are all about: love.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Get Your Game On!

Have you ever been on a winning team? You know, the one that may have lost a few games during the season, but really nothing to be worried about and your team kept going on and on defeating in game after game.

How did that feel? Were you so proud to wear your jersey or uniform? Did you like it when people wanted a play by play of some of your hardest games? Which do you remember better, the easy wins or the tough ones?

Do you realize you get to choose to be on the winning team right now?

We know at the end of this, God will win.

It is as simple as that. Which is funny because usually we have to wait game after game throughout a long season to find out who the victor will be.

But in this, we know that God will win. We have to decide, are we going to be on His team?

The great thing is, you don't have tryouts, He takes you as you are. It doesn't matter how tall, how fast, how smart, how knowledgeable. He will train you throughout the season. He will give you plays and He will show you how to improve your game in whatever capacity you are playing.

He will give high fives when you have done well and pat you on the back or dry your tears when you lose or mess up.

And He will keep putting you back in, no matter what. No one sits the bench on His team, all play.

It won't matter how long or short our season is, or what position he chooses to play us at, if we are on His team, we win!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tree, Bush or Rock?

Years ago we went to tour the Bio Sphere II. It was a huge experiment here in the United States where scientists got together and created a "mini earth" and locked themselves in for a year to learn about it. They could only eat what they had inside, which was mostly what they harvested. There was a rain forest, and an ocean, a desert area, farm area, etc.

On the tour, they used to spend a lot of time telling what the scientists discovered. One thing they said really struck us. They said that the trees grew very tall and straight very quickly. But then they would break off. They puzzled over this and wondered why they grew so well, but didn't grow strong. Then they realized that the trees were lacking something, wind.

In order for a tree to grow properly, it needs wind.

It can grow tall and it can grow quickly and have its leaves to photosynthesize, but it cannot grow strong without the resistance of wind.

This week I was listening to a pod cast that reminded me that God is like the Master Gardener, he knows what he needs to prune  in order for it to produce a bounteous harvest. That pruning may not feel so good to the bush at the time to have things snipped off, and sometimes even branches cut off so it can become beautiful and fruitful.

After talking to a friend who is facing a very long, very hard, very uphill battle, I was thinking about diamonds. To get a brilliant diamond, it has to first be found, mined, and then ground and cut by a master diamond cutter to become this beautiful sparkling gemstone. That sounds like a really awful process, but it is necessary if the diamond is to be worth anything.

There may be times in our lives where we are like the trees, needing some wind to blow to make us strong, at times even some really strong winds.

Other times we may need some pruning, have some dead or diseased ideas or traits 'cut off' so that we can then produce our very best.

Then there are times, like the diamond, we may have a lot of hard stuff that needs to be chiseled off, ground down, to reach that gem which then has to be cut, to shine brilliantly.

I don't know too many people right now whose lives are just smooth sailing. Many put on a good face and make it look like everything is ok or even fabulous, but that may be the moment they are just needing a little breeze in their lives. For others, it can look and seem as though they are being tumbled around with other rocks, chipping off the hard outside covering.

Whatever place you may be in in your life, know that The Master knows exactly what He is doing in you. He created you for His purpose and He knows what that is. Maybe you will be a strong tree that will provide shade, relief and protection to others.

Maybe he created you to produce a bounteous harvest of words or kind works. He knows what and when to prune so you can bring forth an incredible harvest of goodness.

Maybe you will be the diamond, that has to be ground down and cut and polished to become a valuable treasure.

Or maybe you will find seasons of all of these in your life.

I do.

Sometimes it is incredibly hard to remember all of this, especially when it seems the gale force winds won't stop. It can be so hard to remember there is purpose in all the struggles and hard things that seem to be trying to crush the life, when in actuality they are purposed to give a greater life.

I'm writing it down so maybe I will remember a little better.

Grow strong my friend, the harvest is coming and you will shine incredibly. He knows His plan for you.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day

Today in America it is Independence Day, also known as the 4th of July. It is a day off for many, marked by picnics, bbq's, pool parties, apple pie, and hot dogs.

Historically it is the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed. 56 men, in effect, signed their lives to that document. They become traitors to the King. They were no longer wanting British rule or protection. John Hancock signed it big, he knew there was no going back, nor did he want to. Many of these men lost fortunes because of this, some lost the most; they lost their lives. We can never underestimate the incredible sacrifice these men made to forge a new nation. Nor should we ignore the months and years of discussion, contemplation, concern, and for many, prayer that went in to this decision. It was life altering as well for every person living in this country at that time.

This morning my husband sat our boys down and talked about the Declaration. A copy hangs on our living room wall. It was signed 241 years ago. 56 names are inscribed on it. I often look at those names boldly signed. Who can possibly comprehend the feelings of these men as they did so?

Great freedoms come at great cost.

How many millions of men and women world wide have lost their lives in the quest for freedom? Freedom from tyranny, oppression, and evil.

Maintaining freedom has taken  a lot of work and sacrifice since that original Declaration. It took a civil war to gain the freedoms of the slaves, and continual battles since then to maintain and expand those freedoms.
Our country has battled for our rights as well as the rights of others, something that I'm grateful for as a citizen.

When I think about this, I cannot help but see a parallel.

Our Savior gave Himself so we could have freedom from the wages of sin. He gave Himself up at great cost. Maintaining our freedom from sin takes work. It takes us each and every day choosing to continue on the path we have chosen in following our Savior.

It comes as we battle the sins that do so easily beset us. Sins of coveting that which our neighbor has, the sin of turning away someone in need, the sin of bearing false witness against a neighbor, or killing someone's reputation or their chance of success for our own gain.

I think a lot about our Founding Fathers. While they were imperfect men, I believe they had great intentions and they were willing to put their lives on the line for it.

I've been asking myself today what I want to declare independence from.

I declare independence from the false notion that I have to be perfect and that my family needs to be perfect.
I declare independence from thinking my best efforts aren't good enough, because someone else could do it better.
I declare independence from lack of faith. From lacking the faith that God will indeed help me make it through this life.
I declare independence from thinking that I'm not enough. Like the widow's mites, my little bit given from the best in me will always be enough.
I declare independence from the fear of raising my children. Each day I worry that I'm not doing enough to teach them, guide them, be patient with them.
I can declare this independence today because like our Founding Fathers, I believe it is the right thing to do. It is time to sign my name with a big flourish and trust that my Father has this all in His hands. That each and every day I can let go of my fears and grasp on to faith and trust. What I hope to see happen may not, but if I turn my life to his hands, He can definitely steer me through what needs to happen in my life.

Each and every day it is my battle to align myself with Him and what He would have me do.
As I do this, I know I cannot go wrong.

Knowing that gives me freedom!

What will you declare independence from?

Today and every day, I wish you a happy Independence Day!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Realm Squasher

Last night as my husband and I were talking about a particular child who is in a competitive sport, but doesn't want to be, we realized that competing against others just isn't his thing.

Thinking about it in the light of day and examining my heart, I've come to some ugly and true realizations.

I have a child who HATES school. He will never come home with a straight A report card.

I have a child who struggles with some really serious anxiety issues. To the point of not being able to go to the bathroom when he needs to because he is overly anxious.

I have a child who was repeatedly told to fix some things in his performance to get a better score and try as he might he couldn't, until we took the pressure of competing off and then the improvement came.

What does that mean for me?

Here's where it gets ugly.

I have to realize that I am never going to be able to brag about my child's academic successes. He probably won't go to an ivy league school (bonus: we don't have to pay for ivy league). No matter how smart he is, he will not achieve the successes that come in the "regular" academic world. I also have to accept that what I always hoped for him, may not be what makes him happy.

I have a child who will never compete in the sport he enjoys, because competition shuts him down from making progress. So we will see his progress. No one else will and there are no ribbons or trophies for those who don't compete.

We may have to homeschool the one who is so anxious he spends too much time in the bathroom agonizing over his fears. No smiling from risers and cute waves into the audience.

All those bragging rights about acceptance letters, trophies and ribbons, Christmas concerts and Spring Sings with waving smiling kiddos, are not going to be our regular world. We take them when we can and thoroughly enjoy them. I am becoming increasingly aware that I will not have the kind of Facebook posts, or Instagram pictures that let the world know how amazing and wonderful my kids are.

I'll admit it. It kind of makes me sad.

It makes me sad, that as their mom I wanted/needed bragging rights.

That even for a moment I wanted people to look at me and say "She is an amazing mom, look at what her kids have achieved."

That doing what's right for my kids may have taken a back seat to what all the expectations are for those who are "successful."

Writing this I realize I keep saying "my kids."  These are not my kids, they are precious sons of a Heavenly Father who has let them come to my home for a little while. They are children of God. They just happen to be in my care for a while.

I need to stop looking for the world to give them trophies and accolades because those will all go away.

I need to look for Him to give me guidance as to how to raise them.

I need to see them as He does. Just as importantly, they need to see themselves as He does.

I need to stop seeing them as potential Facebook fodder and more as precious gifts, gifts that will mature and move away.

I need to help them realize who they are and that no college acceptance or rejection, last place trophy or concert defines who they really are in my eyes or His.

I need to realize that in the scholastic realm, sports realm, I can do it all realm, our kiddos may not be participants, but ultimately those realms don't matter. They may seem important for a while, and they can teach important things. But in the wholeness of life, they are dust collectors, and pride enhancers. I don't need any more dust collectors, and I'm already struggling with my pride, I don't need any more to get over, thank you very much.

So I guess I am a realm squasher. Pretty sure I might put that on my next resume. It's actually starting to sound catchy to me.