Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Persevere, Encourage, and Connect



Have you ever heard the legend of Pheiddippides?  According to legend, Pheidippides was sent from Marathon, where a battle had raged, to Athens letting the people there know of the outcome of the battle. After allegedly running 150 miles without stopping he burst into the assembly and announced the victory over the Persians and then collapsed and died.  Some legends say that he ran there and back and lived.  Who knows?  All I know is that we derive the term marathon from this legend.
  Now, I am a runner.  I like to run(not 150 miles).  It does something to my brain. When I go periods without spiking my serotonin levels, people around me pay for it.  I, however, am not a long distance runner.  30-45 minutes is enough for me.  I thought at 1 time that I wanted to run a marathon but after looking at the training schedule decided that I didn’t have 4-6 hours per day to devote to running 4-5 days per week.  As educators, we are in it for the long haul!  Some of you reading this have run to Athens and back and have finished the race.  Some are nearer to the end and some are closer to the beginning but we are all running.  Ask any veteran educator and he/she will tell you that perseverance was the key.  We want to finish well. 

 1 Cor 9:24-27 says:
24 In a race all the runners run. But only one gets the prize. You know that, don’t you? So run in a way that will get you the prize. 25 All who take part in the games train hard. They do it to get a crown that will not last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
26 So I do not run like someone who doesn’t run toward the finish line. I do not fight like a boxer who hits nothing but air. 27 No, I train my body and bring it under control. Then after I have preached to others, I myself will not break the rules and fail to win the prize.

Notice, he didn’t say that you were going to win but to run as if you were.  We should never fail to see the prize before us.  What prize do you envision?  A scholarship for college?  Independent learner? Life long learner?  What prize do your children see for themselves at the end?  As they get older, ask them.  Let them have a say(within reason) in what they want for their lives.  Then, begin to run toward that goal with them.
Are you training your whole body and those  of your children?  A great runner doesn’t just work on his legs but works his core and arms and trains his mind for the long run.  How are we training the minds of our children?  Are they getting a well rounded education?  Are we teaching them self-control?  I think that is a fruit of the Spirit that is sorely lacking in the world and I realize that it is sorely lacking in me.  Do we have our kids training for the long haul?  Do we have around us a great cloud of witnesses to bolster us when we fall?  Do our kids have friends that are racing for the same prize?  Moses had people hold his arms up when he could no longer do it himself.  Jesus had the disciples accompany him to pray for Him.  We know from scripture that they fell asleep. TWICE!  When He needed them the most, they were sleeping.  They couldn’t endure!  Imagine how they felt when they knew what He had to endure.  He was headed to torture and death and they were sleeping.  Sometimes, I feel like I am sleeping.  I feel Jesus tell me, “You couldn’t even stay awake for 1 hour.  Look at what I have entrusted to you.  Be vigilant!”  Persevere!
Many of you know my story of AJay and I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say that at 10 weeks pregnant, we were told that there was a 50/50 chance that the baby and I could die.  At 19 weeks I went on bed rest.  At 23 weeks, my waters broke and I entered the hospital.  The Lord brought to mind Romans 5.  We will all suffer trials!  But suffering brings perseverance, perseverance character, character brings hope and hope never disappoints! For 11 weeks, I lay in the bed at Mission while someone else mothered my other children while I carried this one child.  I let God develop my character from my perseverance during this very trying time.  What choice did I have?  2 really: 1 to be grateful for the lesson that I was being taught and to do so with grace and joy or 2 to kick, scream, cry and whine about where God had placed me.  With God’s grace, I was able to endure it with strength.  God’s strength not mine!  I was weak and He was made strong in my weakness.
Now is our time to endure, to keep running steadfast, stay up praying.  Our calling to be parents and educators can be exhausting.  It can bring trials and suffering.  We don’t get the break when our children leave us for 8 hours a day for 180 days out of the year.  What do we get instead?  We get to watch the light go on in our child’s eyes when he masters a concept.  We get to mold and shape our children into godly young people who look for something more in life than what can it benefit me.  We get the blessing of watching our children!  Yes, we only have them for a short time( about a ¼ of their lives) to make them into god-fearing, responsible, life-long learners.   How we endure during this time in their lives will be modeled by our children with theirs.  Are we persevering with grace and mercy or are we kicking, screaming, and whining? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

My 6 Fathers-A revisit

I know that you are intrigued by my title so let me explain. I have had 6 fathers in one sense or the other. No matter the way they treated me, they each taught me something. Or I learned something from each of them.

Let's start with #1. He would be termed my birth father. He contributed the genes that make up half of me. I don't know much about him or his family. I do know that he had curly, blond hair and blue eyes and a twin sister. His family is or was a well to do family in the town in which I was born. He gave me life despite the fact that he was a teenager and I was the product of teenage passion. I am grateful for that. I learned from him that teenage love is, for the most part, fleeting. I wish that I had learned that when I was a teenager. I, also, learned that when things get tough you run away. I lived under that wisdom for a long time. No more!

#2 was my step-father. He was married to my birth mother for a short time. In the brief time that I lived with them, I watched him beat her and shoot her and felt the sting of beating on my backside. He took advantage of me as a baby in a way that ruins a person. He was a mean drunk and a not so nice sober man. You ask what could I possibly learn from him? The first lesson I learned was inappropriate love. I also learned fear from a man. I, also, learned to protect others. I had a little half-sister. I would take her from him and tell him to not do that to her but to me instead. It was as if I knew that I was already damaged and I didn't want him to damage her. Our time ended together the night he aimed a shotgun at me and fired. Obviously, he missed. Just like Jimmy Carter led us to Ronald Reagan. He was followed by my adoptive father.

#3 is my adoptive father, Steve. He is also my grandfather. Baffle you? I was adopted by my grandparents. Dad was a great provider. There were 8 kids that he had to raise. 4 of his and 2 of my moms and 2 adoptees. I call us the Brady Bunch on acid. We never went without the things that we needed. We may not have had everything that we wanted but we never went naked or starved. I know that some of you will find this hard to believe but I wasn't always the easiest child to raise. I had "issues". He handled them the best way that he knew how. He taught me the value of hard work and a dollar and paying your bills on time. He taught me that sometimes people make mistakes but family always helps family if they can. I watch him with my kids and envy the easy relationship that they have but ours is getting better and I can say that I love him with my whole heart. He sacrificed more for my siblings and me than I could ever say. He did it quietly and without any expectations of repayment. I am glad that God chose you to be my dad!

#4 is my spiritual father. Those of you who aren't Christians may not understand this one but Michael led me to a real, saving relationship with Christ. Michael is also my husband and the father to my beautiful children. He is a great daddy and does what most men won't. While I was in the hospital, he worked full-time and was mommy and daddy to the kids. It was hard on him. Leading me to Christ makes him my spiritual father. He teaches me humility and to see the good in life and not drown in my sorrows. He is always positive and even keeled. But best of all, he loved me so much that he wanted to spend eternity with me. Not even roses and chocolate can beat that kind of romance.

#5 is related to #4. It is my father-in-law. I love that man. I love the boy that he raised who became the man that is my husband. Mike and I have a great relationship and I can talk to him about so many things. I learned from him that in-laws aren't horrible people like you hear in books and from comedians. I, also, learned from him that fresh flounder and shrimp straight from his boat can't be beat. He is a great fisherman! He has taught me that generosity is a precious thing and he often works his fingers to the bone in my home. He is a great grandfather and my kids adore him. I look forward to raising you in your old age!

#6 is my Heavenly Father. I can't possibly write everything that He has taught me. The internet could not contain it. I will write the highlights. Forgiveness, gentleness, patience(even though He didn't give me an abundance), real, true love, the value of life, grace, mercy, salvation. My relationships are all centered on Him. I am grateful that I can come to Him at anytime and He wraps His arms around me and loves on me. He taught me that no matter how far I stray I am never to far from Him. All I need is a trip down onto my knees to be near Him. I can't wait to spend eternity in Heaven praising His holy name. God is the most important father that I have. He sustained my family during our time of crisis and we wanted for nothing. He performed miracles in my life and the lives of my children and in many of your lives. God, forgive me for not even scratching the surface of what You have done and who You are.

So that is the tale of my 6 fathers. They each shaped who I am today and some of them continue to shape my life until the day of my death and beyond.  I know that Father's Day is not easy for some people, myself included.  If you have a dad, then I hope you called him and loved on him.  If you don't or if you have one that doesn't want you, call on the heavenly Father for peace and comfort! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Vulnerability

Vulnerability: the capability of being wounded or hurt.

Many of us would not want to be called vulnerable.  That would be an insult to our pride!  We want to be strong and capable and protected from harm from either physical or emotional assault.  Why would anyone want to be vulnerable?  Who wants to be harmed?  We must allow ourselves to become vulnerable sometimes to let people get close to us.  There are no true connections if we are prideful.  We must trust that they will not hurt us!  That is not always the case and thus the saying, "You only hurt the ones you love."

Jesus knew from the get-go that He had to make Himself vulnerable.  Is there any other creature out there who is more vulnerable than a baby?  No!  A baby cannot feed itself or change its own diaper.  It cannot walk or talk.  Vulnerable!  Yet, Jesus humbled Himself to take off His crown and come as a baby.  Vulnerable!  How could He have protected Himself from His enemies?  He had to be protected!  God used Joseph to protect Him by telling him to take Mary and the baby to Egypt.  Mary protected Him as only a mother can.

When Jesus came to his final days, He made Himself vulnerable!  He allowed Himself to be beaten to within an inch of His life.  He allowed Himself to be mocked and scorned!  He allowed Himself to be stretched out and nailed to a cross.  Why?  So, that we could come close to Him!  Our sin separated us from God and Heaven.  We could not make ourselves vulnerable enough to be deemed worthy of Heaven or a relationship with God.  He had to make that way!  He had to allow His Son to become vulnerable so that we could draw close to Him despite our pride.

There are some who are still prideful and feel that they don't need saved.  There is nothing wrong with them.  They don't sin!  They are basically good people who try to do good to humanity.  How do you know that you have done enough or been good enough?  Is there some cosmic ticker that keeps track, adding and subtracting according to your deeds?  Why would it matter?  If there is no Heaven or Hell, why, then, would we be good?  We could just do whatever we want and treat each other like dirt and steal, lie, murder etc!  Sure, we might go to jail but in the long run?  There is just a hole in the ground where we reside until we return to dust.  Where is the hope in that?  How depressing to live that way!

We all feel the longing to be accepted, to be loved, to feel needed, to feel wanted!  That may be, to some people, simply the human condition.  But, I think that those longings are the deeply ingrained desires to have God in our lives.  In Christian speak, we have a God shaped hole that can never be filled, no matter how many ways we try.  We don't feel loved?  Then, we look for love in other humans.  We always end up heart broken!  We don't feel needed?  We fill up our schedule until we collapse from exhaustion!  We don't feel wanted?  We may turn to drugs, alcohol or other things to mask that pain!

This Christmas season, will you make yourself vulnerable?  Would allow Jesus to fill that hole that is in your heart?  Isaiah made it known that:
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.


If you have already allowed Him into your life, are you too busy?  Are you flitting to this party and that?  Are you trying to find that perfect gift?  Give the gift of yourself to your family and give the gift of rest to yourself!  Allow the Holy Spirit to renew you and make the Christmas season that best that you have ever experienced!
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Strange Way

If you are a believer, then you may not question God and His methods.  I am a believer and I do!  Yes, I confess: I question God sometimes! (gasp)  There is Biblical evidence of people questioning God.  He responds to them in various ways depending on the motive of the heart of the person who is doubting.  Abraham was made the father of nations.  Mary became the mother of Jesus. Zachariah was struck mute for 9 months.  The heart was what mattered. 

I question God's method for saving the world.  He is God, after all!  He could have just spoken and people would be saved.  He could have forced us to love Him and to repent.  He didn't!  What kind of love would that be, forced love?  Not love at all, I say!  Instead, He went about salvation in the strangest possible way: a baby!  A baby?  Not very fearsome or forceful, huh?  God became vulnerable and tender.   He used a baby, a teenaged, unwed mother, and a carpenter from a tiny town.  Then, enter in a census, another little town, a stable, and a feeding trough and you quite possibly have the oddest setting for any story much less a story that will bring salvation to a hurting world!  Only God could pull off that scenario!  And He did!  No one before Jesus nor anyone after Jesus has had more impact on the world than that tiny baby.  Time literally centers on Him.
This is the premise for the song "A Strange Way to Save the World".  Another song that I love at this time of year!  "Now, I'm not 1 to 2nd guess what angels have to say."  Well, yes I am!  Enjoy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Joy

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! The theme for this week's advent is joy. I have so much joy in my life. That is not to say that my life is easy nor has it ever been. But, the one thing that I have learned in recent years that joy can be found in any situation. When I was lying in the hospital waiting to learn my fate, away from my children during Christmas, I learned to find joy in little things. Having great nurses or a visitor bringing me a cup of coffee or the carolers who sang to me on Christmas all brought me joy. When I saw my baby on the ultrasound or felt him move, joy surged through my heart. One of the things I learned during this time is that if we wait on circumstances to bring us joy, then we will be waiting forever. Life is hard and when you become a Christian, it doesn't get any easier. We must seek out each day where we can find joy. I was not happy staying in the hospital for 81 days knowing that I might live or I might die but I found joy in knowing that God does not waste one single instance in our lives. I now take joy in visiting others in the hospital when they are unsure of what is coming next. God took my bed rest and is using it to help other women. Joy, joy, joy!!!!
Mary, in her Magnificat(Luke), finds joy in her impossible situation. Here she is, young, unmarried but engaged, a virgin, poor, uneducated and pregnant. This may seem overwhelming(can you imagine having to tell your parents the news?) yet Mary was able to pen the words in Luke 1:
46And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.


That is finding joy in a seemingly impossible set of circumstances. Mary knew that her strength didn't come from her but from the God who created the universe. She rejoices in knowing that she is called favored by Him. After waiting for over 400 years, God has finally spoken to Israel in a most unlikely way, through a woman and a baby! Praise God! May you find joy this season!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Breath of Heaven

One of my favorite newer Christmas songs is Breath of Heaven.  I have loved it since the 1st moment I heard it.  Amy Grant sings the song originally and I have yet to hear it sung as well by anyone else.  She wrote the song in 1992 with Chris Eaton.  The lyrics and music are haunting to hear.
The song is written from Mary's point of view.  As the mother of Jesus, she knew what she was getting herself into.  The angel, Gabriel, told her exactly what was going to take place in Luke 1.

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

Mary was a young, Jewish girl at this time.  She was in a binding, committed relationship with a Jewish man.  She was a virgin despite what modern wisdom wants to say.  Girls of those days would have been stoned for what seems to be very common behavior in our times.  She would have been frightened and confused.  But, she trusted God that what He said would happen would come to pass.

I like to imagine her with Joseph walking or waddling, heavy with child, toward Bethlehem.  Or maybe riding a donkey.  They had to go to fulfill the census.  She had no choice and thus  she had plenty of time with her thoughts.  There was no Facebook or Twitter to ask for prayer.  There was an endless sky lit up with stars and a traveling companion.  I imagine that she prayed, "Breath of Heaven(Holy Spirit), hold me together.  Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven.  Lighten my darkness, pour over me your holiness for you are holy, Breath of Heaven.  Should You not have chosen someone wiser or older or more worthy of this plan?  Are You sure this is what You want?  Must I walk this path alone?  Be with me now.  Be with me now.  This load I bear is to great but I offer all I am for the mercy of Your plan.  Help me be strong.  Help me be.  Help me....."

Have you ever felt like this?  Like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?  Dealing with illness, joblessness, divorce, wayward children, aging parents, hopelessness, family problems, financial strain, etc?  Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, most likely felt that way, too.  Have you ever cried out to the Lord but in your distress didn't know what to say.....Help me be strong, help me be...help me.....  

Then, you are not alone.  We have all been there at 1 time another.  We are confused, lonely, sad, depressed, anxious, worn out, but not alone never alone.  Romans 8:26 says,
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

God, Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit lives in us and groans for us when we have no strength left to even speak.  Take comfort, My Dear One.  The Baby who lived in Mary left us a comforter when He ascended into Heaven. 

Breath of Heaven, thank You for leaving us and for going into Heaven to make our needs known in words that we cannot even express.  Help us to enjoy these weeks of Christmas!  They are a time for us to reflect on what You did and not we've done!  Thank You, Jesus!
Amen!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mary, Did You Know?

I remember holding my daughter for the first time.  She was so tiny and smushy and boy, did she have a set of pipes on her!  That girl could wail and she did for what seemed like a year but was really only a few months.  But, in the few quiet moments, when she slept, I would smell her hair and neck.  I would caress her cheeks, toes, fingers, and belly.  When her 1st Christmas came around, I remember watching her in awe and wondering if Mary ever felt that way.

When Jesus was born, did He cry and keep Mary and Joseph up all night?  Did He smile in His sleep?  Did He spit up?  What was it like to change the smelly diapers of the Savior of the world? Did He roll off the bed?  Diaper rash, sickness, and tummy aches?  Did He have these things?  I had never questioned them until I had my child at Christmas and I heard the song, "Mary, Did You Know?".

Yes, I think she did know that the sleeping child she was holding was the great I am.  She knew very well what she had to do.  When she smelled his head and cuddled him at her breast, was she overwhelmed at the thought that she is giving life to the Man who gave her life?  I remember with all my kids how I felt about nursing.  How cool is it that I can nourish them and help provide their immune systems with immunity and their little bodies with vitamins and nutrients?  I considered my ability to nurse as a great privilege that is uniquely female.  That very thought must have overwhelmed Mary.  Scripture tells us in a couple of places that Mary pondered these things in her heart.  What a relationship that she must have had praying to her Savior as He lay in her arms!  She did know!

Most mothers know that responsibility and don't take it for granted.  Mary knew.  The angel, Gabriel, had told her.  As Jesus skinned his knees and played with his friends and learned a trade, Mary watched on as a mother does, knowing that God had a mighty plan.  Luke 1 records Mary's very words to Elizabeth about God and His plan.

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”


God has a great plan for you.  God never moves away from you.  We move away from God!  We move away from God's plan.  We swerve off the path that He sets before us.  If we let Him, He will guide us back and His heavenly GPS never fails.  I recently met a young girl whose life hasn't worked out the way she had planned.  But, she is looking to God for a 2nd chance and for guidance back to her path.  This Christmas season, are you where God wants you?  Are you off the path and turned away from God?  Then, call out to Him.  He is never lost or turned around.  Maybe you are and always have followed God's plan but things seem to be trudging along at a pace that seems awfully slow.  Know that God has you exactly where you need to be!  Open your eyes and look around for opportunities to serve where you are.  There are those who are in need of encouragement all around us at all times.

1 Thessalonians 5:14&15 says, 1And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

That is what we are to do!  Merry Christmas!

Originally posted December 12, 2012
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