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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year's End - update on 2014 resolutions

 I love the week between Christmas and New Year's.  It's a welcome change of pace from the hectic pace of the preceding days.  We usually spend most of the time taking down decorations, watching bowl games, and eating leftovers. No big festivities.  Just tying up loose ends and looking ahead to whatever the new year holds. 


At this time last year, I excitedly blogged that our family set some individual goals and shared them with each other.  I naively (proudly?) anticipated in my post about this that I looked forward to sharing with you at year end how the goals went.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Spirit of Christmas

All season long we talk about "the spirit of Christmas".  There's an excitement in the air, friendliness, generosity.  It's wonderful!


But is it really "the spirit of Christmas"?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The 5 traits kids needs to be successful adults...and how to cultivate them

What does it take to be a successful adult?  How can we get our kids to that place?


What does "successful" mean, anyway?


The dictionary defines "success" as "accomplishment of one's goal".  However you define success, I think that all parents want our children to be happy, well-adjusted, independent (at least of us!), grownups who bring value to the world around them and live for a purpose greater than their own pleasure.  To Paul and me, that is success.


The question then becomes - how do we parent in the time we have them under our roof to better their chances of such success?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas - P

No one sets out to be a Grinch about Christmas - not even the Grinch!  But somehow, the pressures and demands and expectations of the season can shrink the  heart of  even Cindy Loo Who into  Grinch-sized proportions.  A heart that views the holiday with dread and angst instead of joy and anticipation.  A heart that secretly wants to "stop Christmas from coming, somehow!".


So we've taken a few days to examine ways to change a Grinch heart into one that spreads Christmas cheer instead.  To one's own self....and to those all around.  We're learning how to S-T-O-P Christmas so that we won't want to stop Christmas :)


S- simplify.  Realize that less really can be more.  That the stress involved in some of the season's expectations simply do not have to rule us.  Simplify.  And enjoy!


T-thankful.  This conscious change on the inside shows up in delightful ways on the outside.  Cultivating a heart of thankfulness requires being intentional about it - indeed it's a choice.  One that must be repeated over and over and over.  But eventually, a Grinch heart gets stretched into a Who-heart by the exercise of thanksgiving.  And the result is the spreading of genuine joy to all those around us.


O- opt out.  Admittedly, this one is hard.  "FOMO" ("fear of missing out") is a very real phenomenon that can paralyze us into overactivity, overcommitment, and an under-sized heart.  If we want to enjoy the holidays, we must choose to limit our choices.  For our kids, for our selves, and for our wallet.   Opting out of even some good things can result in opting in to a season of more significance and value.


What about P?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas - O

So, in our quest not to be Grinch-like, we are striving to S-Simplify and T-have a thankful heart.  What is "o" for?


Opt out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Christmas Message

It's Tuesday night.  Wednesday's Word hasn't been written yet.  A gaggle of girls from Betsy's small group are in my kitchen decorating cookies.  And giggling and singing and making me smile.  I was tempted to skip my regularly scheduled blog post.  But then I had a thought to share.


As I listened to them laughing with each other, I told God "thank you".   Thank you for my kids.  And my kids' friends.  And my church.  And THE CHURCH. 




THE CHURCH.  I think that's the message of Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas - "T"






Hopefully you've read the first two posts in this series and realize I'm not all about being a Grinch!  If not, please take a moment and read them herehttp://livingletters4.blogspot.com/


I don't want to "stop Christmas" - I want to S-T-O-P Christmas!


First, there is the concept of "simplify".  It really can make a difference in what you are trying to do and what you are letting stress you out.  Simplify instead of stressing - oh yes!


The next thing to S-T-O-P Christmas is something that goes on inside.  In the heart.  A seemingly small choice that will work its way from the inside out.....into big results.


T.......



For "thankful".


Wait.  Don't stop reading.  This really will make a huge difference in how you view Christmas. How you approach your "to do " list. How you treat other people.  And especially how much you and yours enjoy the season.


It's all too easy to pretty much skip over the spirit of Thanksgiving and slide right into "stuff to do, and give and get" .  I mean, really , think about how "Black Friday" has practically eclipsed the day set aside for gratitude!  Instead of a time for thankful reflection, we spend it packing our stomachs and unpacking our wallets.  Hardly a way to set the tone for a grateful heart.


An lack of thanksgiving shows up as impatience.  Fretfulness.  Irritability.  Disappointment over unmet expectations.  In short, the Grinch.


What a difference it can make if we are intentional about cultivating a thankful heart!  Instead of focusing on what we want to get, or even give, if we concentrate on the blessings we already have, our heart is soothed.  Enriched.  Content. 


A grateful heart changes the atmosphere not only of its resident but also of those around it.  I vividly recall one time a group of wives were sitting around complaining uh, sharing, about their husbands and one woman completely changed the whole conversation by gently praising her man.  Nothing showy.  Not even a rebuke of her friends.  Just a quiet humble giving of thanks for something she appreciated about him.  Every single woman changed her tune.  It evoked in all those around her to realize the things they, too, were thankful for.


Being thankful is possible, even in the most difficult  of circumstances.  Some of the most thankful folks I know have experienced the greatest of all heartbreaks.  They have hurt and grieved and wished things could've turned out differently....yet they still have chosen to give thanks.  To find blessings in the midst of pain.  Intentionally.  In so doing, they have found contentment.  Satisfaction.  Even joy.  A thankful heart,


How can we be thankful, genuinely?  How can we cultivate an attitude of gratitude?


John Piper says that "gratitude rises in proportion to how undeserved we perceive a gift to be".  Wow. That's a lot to ponder.  Think about the converse.  If we are not grateful, it is likely because we think we deserve the good we get....and more.  And if we don't get all the good that we think we deserve, not only are we not thankful, we are likely angry and bitter and envious.


How to S-T-O-P Christmas?


Not only simplify.....but be thankful.  Thankful to God for His indescribable gift of Jesus.  For His unmerited favor.  For the countless blessings of life and relationships and beauty.


Thankful also to the people we encounter every day.  In little ways and big ways.  Give thanks.


And change the atmosphere of the season for those around you!

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas -- "S"

In case you didn't read the previous post and are about to report me to the Christmas police elves, please STOP and check it out here http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/


And now, let's talk about what we do to S-T-O-P Christmas........

"S" is for SIMPLIFY.


Before you quit reading and say you already know that, let's think about what you can really do to simplify the season.  To make it more enjoyable.  More meaningful.  BETTER.


"Simplify" can apply to all areas:


1.  Food
If you spell "LOVE" like my family does (F-O-O-D) then this is hard.  But it's possible.  You really don't have to serve prime rib, 8 side dishes, homemade rolls, and 6 hour prep desserts for Christmas dinner.  You really don't. Even if the spread makes a great instagram post.......  Sometimes we assume everybody wants all this stuff and we feel obligated to make it so they will all be happy when, in reality, that's just not the case.  We are feeding their gluttony if it is!  I have a friend who says her grandma stresses herself out every Christmas making a huge spread for all 30 family members and then is so worn out she can't even enjoy having everyone there.  And they eat it just to keep from hurting her feelings.  Not good.  For anyone. 

Simplify your food plans.  When my fourth child was born, I scratched the crown pork roast dinner I was used to preparing and served lasagna instead.  Since then, I've stuck with simple meals and lately we've decided to go to Steak n Shake or Waffle House!  On Christmas morning, I serve overnight coffee cake (which is a cinch to prepare the night before ) and a couple of casseroles that I've stashed in the freezer. 


If you can't give yourself permission to simplify food, then I'm giving it to you.  Cut it out!!!




2.  Gifts
This area might be harder than food.  Gift-giving.  But we make things harder for ourselves (not to mention our finances and the hearts of our kids.....) when we are excessive in this area.  It takes a lot of courage to make a change here but it's worth it. 

When it comes to extended family, consider drawing names or doing a family gift or limiting gifts to those under 18 only.  (If this is something you'd like to implement, I suggest you broach the subject in, say, July - not during the holiday season.  Emotions are usually more objective a few months away from the Black Friday fever!)


For your immediate family, you do not have to foster greed by piling up a mountain of gifts in an attempt to create a happy holiday.  You need to muster up enough self-control to limit the presents.  You set the example!! I borrowed an idea from my friend Kimberly a few years ago - "something to wear, something to read, something you want, and something you need".  I'll admit it was difficult to limit myself but it wound up being very freeing once I committed myself to it.  Other folks do three gifts, like the wise men brought to Jesus, even letting them symbolize the gold (something valuable), frankincense (something spiritual - like a worship CD or a book or a journal) and myrrh (something practical such as clothes, etc)  What a great opportunity to teach great truths!


Consider receiving no gifts for yourself at all - instead ask that donations be made in your honor to a charity of your choice.  This has been something that our family has treasured.  I cannot tell you how exciting it is to see your children gladly choose to give to others instead of receiving something themselves.  Now that's a gift I want to get!




3.  Activities
You just plain do NOT have to do every activity that is available.  You just DO NOT.  It is better for your healthy, your spirit, and everyone in your world for you to ensure that your calendar is NOT FULL.  Even with good things!  Honestly, church can be the chief culprit when it comes to over-activity.  Just don't let yourself participate in every activity offered - the same goes for your kids.  And don't let yourself believe you have to provide "meaningful" activities at home for every moment you are there.  Kids and parents alike benefit greatly from "down time", especially during a season that is so stimulating.  Be intentional about making that happen.


So that you can authentically enjoy the things that you do participate in!




If you are serious about wanting to "S-T-O-P" Christmas so you won't have to dread its coming, the best place to begin is to simplify.  But most of us are afraid to do so.  We fear that we will somehow cut out the enjoyment if we dare to cut back.  And since we women seem to universally feel responsible for everyone's holiday happiness, we keep piling on the food, the gifts, and the activities.  As though we think there's some magical amount that will ensure satisfaction for our people.  When actually, it's the converse that is true.


4.Decorations
 Some years you might have the time (and the desire and the wherewithal) to adorn every surface in your home with festive lovelies.  But that doesn't mean you should every year.  And you get to make that call!  Last year, when little Mary Alice was due to make her debut at Christmas, I knew I'd want to be in Albany then and for days after.  Which meant I would need to relegate the task of taking down and putting away decorations to other family members.  (While I got to stay with Katie and read books to Jonathan and snuggle Mary Alice :)  Well, somebody has to sacrifice!!!) I knew that simpler would be easier/better.  So our Christmas décor last year consisted of a tree, stockings, and outside garland/bows. Takedown was a breeze for my capable peeps.  (And the fact that all boxes were already labeled with what went where helped immensely.  Just sayin....)




Simplifying the season means that we can focus and relax and engage.


And that's what makes for happy people.


Let's "S" together, shall we?






Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lessons learned from The Grinch

When my Katie told me that Jonathan wears his Grinch shirt and walks around the house whispering "I must stop Christmas from coming!  I must stop Christmas from coming!" I thought about how many times I have felt the same way. Although it's one of my family's all time favorite movies, it has been known to evoke terror in my heart.  Like when I was a little kid and my brother would terrorize me with his "Grinch" voice all season. (After Christmas was over, he tormented me with his "wicked witch" voice and I was the only kid in my town who was afraid of "The Wizard of Oz".  Gotta love big brothers.)
 
Anyhow, back to The Grinch.

I just love that story. The songs, the characters, the message. It's timeless.




I've come to appreciate different things from this classic through the years.(The cartoon one is my preference, by the way.  The updated one leaves something to be desired)  As my love for Christmas has morphed and aged, the things I observe and appreciate have altered. I eventually outgrew my fear of the Grinch voice, but I always saw him as mean and pathetic and bad.


  Now I think perhaps I understand him.


Maybe he was just tired and dreaded all that Christmas seemed to demand that he do.  I can relate.



.


Now don't ban me from your inbox.  Don't shake your finger at me and remind me of what Christmas is all about and scold me to enjoy it. 
I get that.


I love the story of Christmas.  The meaning of God's plan being unfolded and my Savior leaving Heaven to come rescue us all.  I not only love that, I cling to it with desperation.


What I'd like to "stop from coming" is what we've done to Christmas.  Or what I can so easily let happen to it in my heart.


Things to do.  Places to do.  Stuff to buy and plan and fix.  Expectations to meet.
That's what turns me into the Grinch.


Although I can easily downsize my heart and miss the joy of Christmas as quickly as snowmen melt at the beach, I realized this season that I have learned some things through the years.  Some things that help me truly enjoy the season.  Some things that keep my heart the right size and in the right place.  Some things that "stop (the wrong) Christmas from coming"......


How to S-T-O-P Christmas..........




Over the next few posts, I am going to share some concepts that help me "STOP" Christmas and enjoy it instead.  I hope you'll stick around......


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Warning: Poison if Spoken

Continuing with our study in the book of James....
James 3:1-12
 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell.[b] For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[c] these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.


I am grinning as I type - when I open my Bible to this passage, it is so well-worn that I have had to tape up tears in the pages.  Apparently, I have been in need of this instruction so many times that I have worn out this section of God's Word!  I can only pray that this Truth is wearing its way into my soul and leaving its mark on my life......

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Faith that works

James 2:14-26


 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.




Faith.  Works.  How do these two go together? 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Love is...Blind

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:1-13


In this passage, James addresses a timeless issue of the human condition....an attitude of favoritism.  As old as history itself, James faced the same matter that churches and you and I and everybody else have to guard against today.  Favoring one group over another.  Preferential treatment for the such and such's or so&so's.  James calls it judgment.  And he warns us not to do it.


So let's unpack this passage...........

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What good does religion do you?

I hope you're enjoying our slooooooow trek through the book of James.  I love it and, even though I have taught it several times, there are several Truths that I need to be reminded of.  Sort of like looking in a mirror and then forgetting what I look like after I walk away.....


This week's Wednesday's Word will wrap up chapter 1.  Just two verses:             
                                         

James 1:26-27

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.


First, let's check our context.  In the preceding verses (21-25), James exhorts believers to obey God's Word, clinging to it, embracing it, receiving it in the same way one would receive an organ transplant!  (Although he didn't use that exact phrase....the idea is the same - make His Word a part of your life by meditating on it, memorizing it, and most of all, minding it!)  James warns us that it is highly possible to merely listen to God's Word and never get around to obeying it.  That, he says, is worthless.  That kind of faith will do nothing to change anyone, will not transform them into the image of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Helpful tip for Mommies and Memory work

I have some really brilliant friends.  And I love it when they share their ideas with me.


And I love passing them on to you!


Here's one from my brilliant friend Brionne that will help you help your kids memorize Scripture:


Once a week (Thursdays after AWANA verses the night before) she writes her kids' upcoming memory verses on their bathroom mirror.  With dry erase marker.  They see this at least twice a day, she says, when she brushes their teeth.


And they get those verses memorized over a whole week. 

Instead of cramming them in on Wednesday afternoon.  Like somebody I know........


It's  a great idea.  I hope you'll try it.


Aren't you glad I have brilliant friends??? 


I love sharing their ideas and I'd love to pass yours along, too.


Oh, btw.  Just in case you're wondering.  She's not only brilliant.........she's beautiful as well.





I'm still marveling over the fact that she gets four kids' teeth brushed TWICE A DAY.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Looking in the mirror

Do you ever slap yourself on the forehead and say "I knew better than that!!"?  I surely do!  I cannot count the times that I hear a sermon or read a passage of Scripture or just plain remember a Truth and think - "I used to do that right but somewhere along the line, I've stopped".  Or I find myself repeating the same commissions or omissions over and over again.


How does that happen to us?


Well, basically,

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's Nike Time

James 1:21-22


21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves


We spend an awful lot of time trying to fix ourselves.  An awful lot of energy and money, too.  And I don't mean physically (although that's true as well!) but I mean emotionally, relationally, psychologically.  Even though we are slow to admit it, I think deep down we know that much of what's wrong in our lives has to do with the fact that we are broken people.  People that "need fixing".


Trouble is, we don't know how to do it.


I think this verse tells us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Don't get mad...get quiet?

James 1:19-20


19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.


The context for this passage is the topic of trials.  Pretty safe to say, then, that it applies to each of us every day....we're either in the midst of a trial, just coming out of a trial, or headed into one soon!  So, it's pertinent.


What counsel does Brother James have for us?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Don't judge a gift by its package

James 1:16-18
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[a] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures


  The preceding verses in this chapter address the fact that the Enemy of our souls presents temptations in the midst of our trials.  He sends the temptation in an attempt to thwart God's purpose in the trial.  God's purpose is to make us perfect....Satan's is to make us fall.


The root of most every temptation can be found in these verses...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The devil made me do it

A group of us gals are spending our Wednesday evenings digging into the book of James.  I am notoriously slow about getting through verses - took us two weeks to get ourselves out of verse 1!  But the time has been sweet.  And rich.  I love these folks.  And we are loving the treasures we're uncovering in His Word.


Here's a couple of jewels from recent weeks....


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Money is the best deoderant"....Elizabeth Taylor

"Money is the best deodorant" says Elizabeth Taylor.  It makes even the bad smell good!!!




Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.  For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
James 1:9-11


At first glance, it seems a bit odd that James inserts this comment about the rich man and the poor man right after he implores us to ask God for wisdom when we are handling trials.  He's told us that our thoughts ("consider") towards trials are to be those of joy...because we can trust that God is doing a great work to develop endurance in us and that endurance will make us whole, lacking nothing.  Indeed, that is reason for joy.  Even in the midst of trials.


And we don't default to that position naturally - we need God's wisdom for that.  We have to ask Him for that perspective, for that ability to see trials like He sees them, for the grace to trust His purpose.


Got it.
But why then the comment extolling the poor man and pretty much feeling sorry for the rich man?  In this context?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Joy in trials? Really?

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:2-8


It's no secret to any of us that this life is full of trials.  Seems like we're either in one, coming out of one, or about to head into one.  "Of various kinds" - all sorts of things that cause pain, angst, grief.  Trials.  I don't like them and you probably don't either.  I'd rather have comfort and ease and pleasure, thank you just the same.


Interesting that James tells us that our perspective on these trials should instead be....JOY.  Joy.  Joy?
Really??


Why?
And,  how?


First, the why.  That's found in the second phrase - because the testing of our faith produces steadfastness and the full effect of steadfastness at work brings about a life lacking in nothing. Lacking in nothing?  WOW!  Read that again - lacking in nothing. Sign me up!


Oh, wait.  The path to that life is the road marked "trials". 
And James says our countenance on that path should be "joy" - the word "chara" literally means little lambs jumping and skipping without a care in the world. 
Gulp.  In the midst of trials.  Trials bring suffering and pain and discomfort.  But James says our attitude them should be joy.
Because of what they can bring about in our lives.


How??
Well, James tells us to "count it" - another translation says "consider it".  There's the key.  "Consider".  Choose the thoughts. Think carefully about, especially in order to make a decision. Contemplate.
Deliberate, intentional thoughts.


Thoughts that require divine intervention because they are not our natural default.  That's why James exhorts us to ask God for wisdom. 
Wisdom that enables us to trust that whatever God has allowed into our lives is there so He can prove our faith to be genuine, so that He can let steadfastness operate in us....and result in lives that lack nothing.  Wisdom that clings to the character of God - always faithful, always loving, always good - and trusts that His purpose for us is good.


"Doubting" isn't emotional wavering.  The Greek word used here is "judging...coming to a wrong conclusion about".  James is encouraging us here to cling to the truth about God.  In the midst of a trial, it's easy to instead believe that God's not always good.  That He doesn't love us.  That He should've done some things differently.


Wisdom - "Sophia" - is the ability to see life from God's perspective and to trust Who He is.  Always good.  Always at work on our behalf.  Always loving.  Towards those who follow Him.


Trials.   Testing.  Like gold going through a fire to "proof" it.  And once it comes out, it is more priceless than before.


That's the reason for our joy.
Genuine faith more precious than gold.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Testing, testing, testing 1,2,3.....

Update on email receipt difficulties - if you aren't receiving the posts regularly by email, thank you for getting in touch with me!  We are trying to narrow down the issues -- if you have gmail, I'd love to hear from you.  Whether you receive them or not.  We found that some gmail subscribers have found the blog emails in another folder.  Not the same for others, however.  So please let me hear from you particularly if you get email through gmail.


If you have a different provider and are not regularly receiving the posts (note : I don't post every day --- sometimes I actually have to sweep floors and make dinner :) but I do at least post every Wednesday) please email me chamfam@bellsouth.net and let me know your email provider.  I've had difficulties outside the blog with yahoo and am wondering if my computer has a grudge against yahoo and is blocking some posts over that.


As always, thanks for reading!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Looking for an expert

All is not well in my blog-world.  I've been limping along in cyberspace, posting and publishing, but my blog skills are, well, Neanderthal.  So there have been problems with delivery and post views and stuff I don't even know about.  I have tried (some) to figure it out but don't even understand the jargon enough to know what my questions are -- I'd rather just write :)


SOOO if any of you readers are blog-savvy and feel "led" to offer me some help, I'd much appreciate it.  I have lots of questions and will promise to give you a good laugh by revealing my ineptitude.


Seriously, if anyone is willing to help me with this stuff, I'd be much obliged.  Just consider it your spiritual gift :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

help, please :)

If you have signed up to receive Living Letters posts via email, are you getting them?  Just heard from a new reader and hers are coming through.  I don't know much about blogs and how they work but I want to troubleshoot this problem.  Just need to know how widespread it is.


Thanks, y'all!


Oh, and if you're not signed up already, please do!  See the link on here to subscribe by email.

The H Factor

I don't think I've ever taught a verse based on what's NOT in it but I am this time.  In an earlier post, we looked at James 1:1 and unpacked a whole bunch from this little verse.  You can read it here
http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/2014/06/james-bond-servant-of-god-and-of-lord.html




But today, let's look at the verse again and see what's NOT there.....


James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting out of the darkness


It seems that the people of God are beginning to dialogue more openly and honestly about depression.  That's a good thing.  Countless Christians have suffered silently, in painful shame, and unnecessarily because there's seemed to be a perception that depression is unacceptable in The Church.


Hang the perception - depression is present.  Even prevalent.  And it's paralyzing scores of precious people.


So I'm glad it's coming out of the closet.  I pray that discussions can help loosen the grip of fear and shame and helplessness on people's lives.  I hope that more and more people will eventually be able to refer to depression as "past", "history", "defeated". 

That's why I'm coming at it from a little bit of a different angle.......I want to see my brothers and sisters conquer the despondency, the desolation, the desperation.  I want them to have real and sustained victory.


I know I'm gonna make somebody mad with this post.  I know somebody's gonna read this through a filter of pain and be offended.  I know I gotta be careful.


But.....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Another breakfast recipe

After reading my plea for breakfast ideas, my friend Tricia sent me this recipe.  I waited til I had tried it to post.  Uh, it is DIVINE.  You really should bake this.  It is scrumptious.  Approved by my whole family.


It's really good.  Thank you, Tricia!!!


Chili Cheese Casserole

4 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c plain flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 c shredded cheddar
1 c cottage cheese
1/4 c melted butter
1- 4 oz can diced green chilies

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix baking powder, flour and dry mustard.  Beat in eggs.  Blend in remaining ingredients.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.  Grease casserole dish and bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until firm in the middle.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our life reflects our priorities.......

I've thought a lot about this verse the past couple of days.  Truett Cathy spoke of it as one of, if not the, favorite verse of his life.  His walk matched his talk.


I'd like all of us to think about it and see if our pursuits, our priorities, and our purpose reflect its truth -


Proverbs 22:1 - A good name is rather to be desired than great riches; favor is better than silver or gold.


Would I rather have good character or great riches?  This verse suggests that we have to choose the pursuit of one or the other. 
I think that if one desires great riches, a good name will not be a priority.  However, if one's priority is earning a good name, if one's purpose is the grace of receiving God's favor, then great riches won't matter.




That's all for today.


Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On the life of S Truett Cathy

I needed to have Chick-fil-A for lunch today.  In times of bereavement, one needs to be with family.  So I drove over and the smells of peanut oil, and waffle fries, and freshly squeezed lemonade were hugs for my heart and tissues for my tears.  I felt better, just being there.


Betsy was delighted for a Chick-fil-A lunch, regardless of the reason.  She recited her order without hesitation.  A #1 with lemonade and honey mustard.  No lemonade, I said.  It's drive thru.  We're eating at home.  Drinks at home are cheaper.  (Truett's frugal nature was my soul mate -- I knew how much profit was built into those restaurant drinks!)


I thought I had used up my reservoir of tears earlier today when Mary and her cohort Kaitlin piped me in via FaceTime to the CFA staff memorial service this morning.  Hearing Dan share about his Dad with such love and tenderness and joy unleashed a torrent of sobs from me.  But I "got it all out" and was looking forward to cheerfully placing my order and being on my way to enjoy the unique deliciousness. I saw the flag at half mast and I teared up all over again. The trip down memory lane.  blurted out when I got to the window "I'm so sorry for your loss.I worked for him for seven years". The CFA employee was so nice. She overlooked my blubbering and thanked me. He was a great man, she said.

Indeed.  A great man.

His favorite Bible verse was Proverbs 22:1 "A good name is rather to be had than great riches" 

To be honest , Truett had both. But the great riches were incidental to him. He was truly never impressed with them.  He had a good name. Because he was truly a great man.

Many thousands of people knew about Truett. Of his business success. Of his unprecedented care for orphans. Of his infallible faith and its indelible effect on his life.   But I was privileged enough to work for him for seven years. I saw him up close. I ate dinner with him. I sat through meetings with him.l I didn't know him as well as lots of folks but  I was directly impacted by his character.    

Here's what I knew him to be:

Generous.   Oh my, Truett was generous.
Although he was extremely frugal (and there are some pretty funny stories about that!), he was never cheap. He paid his employees very well, he lavished tremendous perks on us, and he gave away far more than he ever spent on himself. Yes, Truett was incredibly generous .  His generosity trumped his frugality.

Kind. What a rare trait. Especially for a man.  So precious. He treated everyone just the same.  Never did I feel he looked down on me for being young and inexperienced. I never saw him embarrass anyone nor make anyone feel insignificant.  He was just plain kind and thoughtful.  One evening I was leaving the office late and I passed him in the woods on the way to the parking lot.  He was knee deep in daffodils.....picking a bouquet for his wife Jeanette.  He mumbled something about "cheaper than a florist" !!!!!


Authentic.  The man lived out his faith like nobody's business.  He taught Sunday School for 50 years.  TO MIDDLE SCHOOL BOYS.  Not even a Mom can handle middle schoolers that long!!!!  He always drove a Ford car because he never forgot the loyalty of the Hapeville Ford plant to his original Dwarf House.  He didn't ever care what was "politically correct" or "socially impressive" - he just followed his heart.  Before I was hired, Truett had to interview me.  I had never met the man and was understandably nervous.  Pretty sure HR would've even been more nervous than I was if they had heard his questions......"Where do you go to church?  How long you been dating that boy?  Are you gonna marry him?"  I guess he liked my answers.  I got the job.


Fun.  Every year that I worked there, he and Jeanette had a family day at their home.  We rode motorcycles and horses and ate hot dogs and sat on hay bales.  He wanted us all to have fun.  Because he was fun.  He laughed at himself....and let us laugh at him - his misuse of words, quirky mannerisms, anything.  What other CEO would be so approachable that a 20-something newbie could approach him about being part of a "Rocky" skit in front of 1000 people?  And what other CEO would not only agree but would enlarge his role by dressing up in boxing shorts and having two fellas dress up like Mafia types and escort him in?????


Compassionate.  Truett's compassion drove his life.  He was very tenderhearted and merciful, evidenced by his care for orphans in their distress.  I saw it on a personal level as well.  His daughter Trudy and her husband were missionaries in Brazil while I worked at CFA.  I was in the break room refilling my daily hourly cup of Tab and I bumped into Truett.  I knew he had just returned from visiting Trudy for the birth of her 2nd or 3rd baby.  I asked him how she was doing.  He teared up.  He shared with me that it had been a difficult birth, that hospitals there weren't as good as here, and that it was very very very hard to leave his daughter there and come back.  I reached out to pat him on the arm, tears spilling down my own cheeks.  He responded with a bear hug.  I left my head on his shoulder briefly and, just for a moment, I think I was his surrogate little girl.


Humble.  Confident, decisive, successful beyond his wildest dreams....and yet the most humble man you could ever know. He insisted that we all call everyone by their first name....including him.  For a gal with small town Southern roots, that was awfully hard.  But he persisted.  And eventually, Mr. Collins became "Jimmy" and Mr. Cathy became "Truett". That's just how he was - humble.  And it showed up all over the place!  Once, staff gave him a bronze bust of himself as a Christmas gift.  It was mounted on a pedestal and displayed in the atrium for everyone to see.  I arrived to the office earlier than usual one morning and happened upon Truett dragging the statue into a corner, out of prominence.  Someone would move it back, and inevitably, it would return to the corner.  I don't know who ever won that tug of war!


Unpretentious.   He didn't have degrees to impress people with.  Never cared about the trappings of wealth that he could have easily afforded.  But he did say he thought maybe those of us with MBA's would be OK --- as long as it stood for "Mop Bucket Attitude"!!!!  In other words, nothing was beneath him.  And that's what he expected of all of us.


Diligent.  We were allowed an awful lot of freedom in the office but I never saw anyone take advantage of it by goofing off.  We knew how hard Truett had worked to build this company and we wanted to emulate him by working as hard as we could.  Together.


Empowering.  It's ludicrous, actually, that he would entrust his empire to a group of mostly 20 somethings who had little business experience and even less know-how.  But he did.  He hired a slew of us straight out of college and let us run his company.  A bunch of the time, we didn't know what we were doing.  At least I didn't.  But we all tried and we worked hard and, little by little, he grew us up.  We learned a lot.  And most everybody stayed there so his investment paid off. 
I left CFA for the only acceptable reason - A promotion.....I became a stay at home Mom. 
But in my heart, I never left.  I became a roving ambassador for Chick-fil-A.
And, one day this past June, I turned over to them one of the projects I'd been working on since I left...my Mary joined the CFA team.  In the very department I used to be.  Cannot possibly convey how proud I am.  How thankful I am.  That they have her....and that she has them.
Truett, part of your legacy is that I have one to share back.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.



He was one of, if not THE, greatest leaders to have ever lived.  Because people followed him. I cannot recall a single time Truett ever had to demand anything. He never had to use his position of power. People followed him because he was a great leader. Period. We trusted where he was headed. If he was going somewhere , that's where we wanted to be.


Oh, and one final note - remember how Betsy asked me to buy her lemonade for her lunch today and I refused because we could get drinks at home?  Well........in honor of Truett.....I got her lemonade....generosity trumps frugality every time!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are you sure?

This blog is all over the map.  I write about marriage and breakfast recipes and parenting and theology.  But that's pretty much how my mind - and life- operates.  I guess I figure lots of you readers are the same!


That said, though, there's only one thing that I'm really about.  One thing that is the foundation for all my thoughts and activities and posts.  One person, actually.  And my relationship with Him.  If I have lots of site visits and wonderful comments, if I give helpful advice and even make you laugh, if I blog faithfully week after week but fail to exhort you to be sure you have the same relationship, nothing else would matter.
                                  
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5


Most folks fall into one of three categories -


1- Those that possess a relationship with Christ and are walking in His light
If that describes you, be sure to heed Ephesians 4:1 and to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,


2 - Those that believe they are "saved" or "safe" when in reality, they are not.  Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21)
That verse is very upsetting to me.  Maybe to you, too.


3- Those who aren't sure.   While I don't mean to needlessly upset you, I would rather do that than let you continue in false assurance.


I implore you to test yourself today.  Are you truly in Christ?  Can you know?  I John 3:23 gives us the basis on which to test the genuineness of our faith - And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them.




Although I am a tenderhearted person who loves to encourage and inspire, I pray that today's post will upset you a bit.  I want you to wrestle with this question and ask God where you stand with Him.  I want you to ask questions and seek Him and pursue the Truth.


I want you to find Him and to live a life that bears evidence of that.


If you have questions, I welcome them.  I would love to help.  You can email me privately at chamfam@bellsouth.net


I want you to be sure.






Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When things need fixing

The other day a couple of my crew were at odds.  Different than when their frustrations were vented in hits and hairpulls, this was of the verbal sort.  Unkind words.  Hurt feelings.  Spreading out to members not involved in the conflict.


They angrily separated.  Too old for parent-enforced time outs but perhaps the principle learned in the early years was wisely relied on.  Good idea to retreat.  Stop the assault of wounding words.  Tears.


I appeared in the aftermath.


I think each one expected me to point out their error.  To reprimand them and exhort corrective action. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Rhythm for the Breakfast Blues

When life brings changes, I feel a little rattled til I can find a new rhythm to adjust to the change in tempo.  This month has brought with it some unfamiliar developments and it's taken me some time to figure out how to adapt.  "School starting" has meant not only the courses I teach Betsy but also her one day per week courses which means I have to get her somewhere.  In the morning. 

Now I know for you seasoned conventional school moms, it is pretty pathetic to need to adjust to one day per week school -- you do it five days a week!  Trust me, you have my most ardent admiration!  Thinking of, planning for, and preparing lunch before I've even fixed breakfast requires skills not tapped into since my college calculus classes.  Whew. 


On top of the once a week expectations, Chip is now a high school Senior/college freshman doing the whole joint enrollment thing.  No courses under my tutelage.  Probably his dream come true??  So he's gone every day just like normal people!!


And then, with my Mom being incapacitated since her fall, I've had to figure out how to make this new tempo work and get everybody what they need and when.  Namely food.  And specifically breakfast!  4 out of the other 5 folks in this house need to break their fast at a different time.  And while I adore them all equally and love to prepare tasty nutritious food that conveys my deepest feelings every day, the only one that really merits that kind of attention is the hubs. 

SO, what to do? How to feed the masses from 6-9 AM five days per week?


Breakfast freezer meals. I've done freezer meals for dinner for over two decades but now my arsenic hour (you know - that time lapse of 5-6PM when you're trying to fix dinner and nobody cooperates?  Arsenic hour - either take it or give it!) comes in the morning, not the evening.  Freezer meals for breakfast.  That's become my solution.  That's my new rhythm.  And I think some of you might find an idea or two that can simplify your mornings, too.


Here's a couple of sites that gave me some ideas and then I'll share the menus I've already prepared in case you want to try some, too:


http://www.notconsumed.com/2014/02/21/diy-breakfast-station-easy-bi-monthly-cooking-for-busy-moms/


http://www.5dollardinners.com/15-grab-n-go-breakfast-ideas/


Over the course of three days, about 45 minutes to an hours each day, I stocked my freezer with


breakfast burritos
strawberry muffins  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/strawberry-muffins/
banana chocolate chip muffins  http://www.5dollardinners.com/whole-wheat-banana-chocolate-chip-muffins-pantry-challenge-recipe/
baked oatmeal muffins http://allrecipes.com/recipe/baked-oatmeal-ii/ (I add chocolate chips instead of cranberries)
cooked sausage patties and homemade biscuits
apple cake bread  ( doesn't sound healthy to eat cake for breakfast - so I changed the name)
strawberry bread (because I don't like bananas but I do love Washington Farms strawberries from my freezer!)
sausage & cheese muffins
cheese grits casserole (for a crowd - not individual portions)


 I asked my FB friends for some breakfast ideas and got awesome suggestions.  Thank you!  Trying some already! My friend Tricia shared a cheese soufflé recipe that I'm going to try out this weekend when the whole gang will be here.  It looks DIVINE.  I'll give you that one once I've sampled it.  I cannot wait - it has a boatload of cheese and green chiles - oh YES!!!!


Other breakfast ideas :  http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/2014/01/breakfast-included.html


http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/2013/10/update-of-love-for-my-living-letters.html


Now I can grab what I need for each person (after I've served the hubs his daily bacon and eggs) and pop it in the microwave  (or in the hands of each child.....) , add a boiled egg or strip of bacon (which can also be prepared ahead!) and presto! Breakfast is served!


If you have some ideas for how you simplify your mornings, I'd love to hear them. And maybe we should just meet at Cracker Barrel to chat about them around 9???

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Love covers

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  I Peter 4:8


Love covers.  What a great truth.  Love is willing to overlook an offense, to absorb being wronged, to pay the cost for someone else's sin.  Wow. 


I want to be loved like that, don't you?  For my family and my friends to forgive me when I mess up, to give me the benefit of the doubt, to understand me and accept me.


I know what the opposite feels like, don't you?  I've had friendships dissolve because I wasn't enough something for the other person.  I've felt walls go up because conflicts weren't resolved.  I've been shut out because of a perceived wrong.  Whatever the reality may be, the bottom line was that there wasn't enough love to cover.


I'll bet you have similar stories of hurt.  I understand.  I hurt with you and for you.


We have a choice about what to do when love falls short of what we need.

We can act in retaliation, hoping that the best defense is a good offense.  Unfortunately, what works in basketball doesn't apply in relationships.


We can react out of self-protection.  But we need to know that keeping our hearts in a cage does more to keep love out than to protect us from harm.


We can reciprocate with pretense and denial, insisting that we don't care what happens, we are fine no matter what others do.  But the only one who's fooled is ourselves.  The wound still bleeds, whether we ignore it or not.


We can wallow in our pain, hoping someone will rescue us.  Good luck with that one!


Or, we can respond in a way that is counter-intuitive.  Actually seems to invite more opportunity for offense, for wrong, for pain.  We can let our love cover the other person's offenses.


I know I want to be loved like that.


I know I want to love others like that.


Like Jesus does.





Monday, August 18, 2014

Standing Up

My dad has the sweetest habit.  He is such a gentleman that, even at 85 years of age, he stands when a woman enters the room.  It's positively charming.  A friend of mine dropped by the other day and popped into my folk's apartment to say hello to them.  He stood up to greet her and remained standing until she left. 


Not just this once.  He does this every time.  It's absolutely adorable. 




Now my dad wasn't a "blue blood".  He never went to "finishing school" to learn etiquette.  I suppose most all his generation knew how to treat people from watching their elders.  And those lessons stuck.  He opens doors for women, speaks respectfully to others, and, yes, stands when he is introduced to someone, especially a female. 


I am touched by that every single time.  What a show of kindness.  Of respect.  Of affirmation.
It makes the other person feel so valued.  What a gift!


One of my most cherished memories is that of coming home, after having left home, if you know what I mean.  College days.  Marriage.  Family of my own.  Coming home - where Mama and Daddy lived.  I'd pull into our long driveway and hit the horn a couple of times.  I could see my Daddy in his chair by the window, and by the time I'd parked the car, he would have gotten up and come out to my car with his arms open wide.  Welcome home.  Welcome home.  What a feeling of love, expressed in my Dad's simple gesture of getting out of his chair to greet me.  To embrace me.  To welcome me home.  Every time.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is it ever "right" to complain?

Some of you asked for clarification regarding the earlier post on taking problems to the Lord.  Understandably, you want to know if it's ever ok to "complain".  I am right there with you! What about when we are concerned for someone else's safety?  What about when the other person is clearly in the wrong? And we want to make it right?  Isn't it the right thing to do to call attention to the problem?


Well, let's look at what Scripture says..............


 Philippians 2:14 instructs us to Do everything without complaining and arguing.  That's all inclusive and completely clear.  We are not to complain.  Other translations use the words "grumbling, disputing, arguing, murmuring".  I think we get the picture.


How do we apply that to everyday living?  Is there ever a time to call attention to a problem?


Clearly, there is.  Matthew 18:15-18 lays out the way to handle problems - If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector




Go directly and only to the person involved in the problem.  And to God for help and grace and wisdom....and to check for any beams that need removing first....Matthew 7:5....




If your fast food order wasn't prepared correctly, humbly, kindly, gently take it back to the cashier and ask for the right sandwich.  Don't immediately go on TripAdvisor and blast the company. If your child's teacher can't manage the classroom, perhaps you can volunteer as an aide but don't chew her up and spit her out over coffee with the other Moms in the class.  If your best friend is an alcoholic, get professional counsel and seek intervention instead of bringing her problem up every week in Bible study for group prayer. 




It seems to me that the bottom line is (as always) a matter of the heart.  If my motive is to help move someone out of danger, to restore them to health and wholeness, then I am definitely exhorted to address the problem with them.  In gentleness and humility, as Galatians 6:1 explains. And this is to be done privately.  Not in a public showdown on social media or at the office's water cooler.  Privately.  So as to restore.  So as to avoid falling into a pit of my own.


If, however, my motive is in some way selfish, if my "rights" have been violated or  I want to prove how right I am or  to inflict an offense in retaliation, then I think the passage that we look to is Proverbs 19:11 - Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is to his glory to overlook an offense.  Overlooking a wrong.  Not calling attention to it (complaining) or insisting that it be made right (arguing) - overlooking it.  I cannot count the number of times I have been warned by the Holy Spirit to refrain from a comment and just overlook.  I also cannot count the number of times I have failed to heed that warning....and oh how I wish I had!


What does it mean to "overlook an offense"?


It doesn't mean to deny an offense has occurred. That's not truth.
 Instead, it means forgiveness and grace in place of demanding to receive what has not been delivered.  It means valuing the relationship and the other person more than our own personal desires for comfort, pleasure, significance, or joy.


When someone has wronged us, there is a debt.  They "owe" us.  Christ's example is that we not "make them pay" but rather that we forgive the debt and then pay it ourselves.  When someone has failed to treat us as we (think) we deserve, we "get that debt of love paid" by seeking fulfillment from Christ's love instead of trying to extract it from the debtor.  And, in Christ's economy, debts we are owed get paid by "spending" love on the one who incurred the debt.  It's incredulous but it's true - when someone has wronged us and we are due justice - or at least an apology - Jesus would have us not seek that payment.  But instead to make investments of love in others (including the offender). 


Investments of love include not complaining or grumbling or airing our offenses.  But instead overlooking them through the lens of Christ's love for us on Calvary.  Miraculously, our own hearts get filled.

Complaining won't do that.  Love will.




Love covers.  A multitude of sins.

I've got this problem.....


I pour out my complaint before him;
    I tell my trouble before him

Psalm 142:2


Here's the thought for today - next time we have a complaint about someone or something, next time we are troubled about someone or something, let's tell the Only One who can help.


Instead of our neighbor.  Or our sister. Or our husband.  Or Heaven forbid - Twitter!


 Let's tell our Heavenly Father.  Really tell Him.  As in casting all  our cares on Him.  Because, remember, He cares for us!  (I Peter 5:7)



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We can't settle for "normal" now

It's surreal. 


The atrocities going on across the sea. 


In Israel and Palestine and Gaza.  In Iraq.  Especially in Iraq.


I read online reports.  See the news.  And I am horrified.


Then I go grocery shopping.  Take my child to piano lessons.  Look after my Mom.  Life is normal.  I give little thought to the horrors.


But the anguish returns.  I wonder if it is all true.  Perhaps some lies are being disseminated.  Then I read reports from credible sources that reveal more evil. Normal is shattered.


HOW CAN THIS TAKE PLACE?


Children being beheaded.  Women kidnapped and forced into slave trade.  Crucifixions.  Victims being buried alive.


Surely this cannot be!  We live in a civilized world....or so I thought.  The shocking barbarity that I learned about when studying the Middle Ages - AND THE HOLOCAUST - are not just in the history books.  Humans are capable of unspeakable evil.  Here and now.  We cannot pretend or deny or ignore. 


The most heartbreaking issue of all is that this inhumane cruelty is in the name of religion. 
I cannot process it.   I simply cannot.


So I go back to my mundane normality.  My blessed, precious, wonderful, mundane normality.


But I cannot stay there.  I have to do something.  We all do.  We must not return to our "normal" and ignore this horrible truth.


We know the quote from Edmund Burke --  "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."


What can we do?


1.  Pray.  I know that sounds trite.  But it's true.  Only God can change the human heart - and that's where the problem lies.  For all of us.  I don't even know what to pray but God can take care of that, too.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27
So, I ask myself, am I really praying?  Really??


2.  Give.  Yes, God is the only answer but He often involves us in the process by giving food, water, relief.  Some organizations I suggest are Voice of the Martyrs, Open Door, International Mission Board SBC.  These groups are getting stuff done quickly.  They have missional "ground troops" that are close to the crisis and know how to respond effectively.  GIVE.  But give to groups that can really help.  Many news sources report that the majority of the humanitarian relief provided by some outlets was unusable once it was dropped on the mountain.  Give.  We have so much -- too much, really - we can help significantly if we all just give.


3.  Spread the word.  Tell others.  Keep the focus on what's happening.  Perhaps the terrible slaughter of the Holocaust wouldn't have happened if people that knew what was going on had spread the word.  Make sure the attention of governments and all the world is riveted on these horrifying events.  Social media.  Conversations at the water cooler.  In the pulpit.  Talk about it.


4.  Contact Congress and the White House and let your horror be known.  Insist that our government not allow evil to triumph by doing too little or even nothing. Humanitarian aid is insufficient.  We need to rescue these people.  Be their voice and be sure you get heard.


5.  Do not return to normal.  Pray without ceasing.  Give sacrificially.  Keep talking about it.  Be relentless in insisting that effective action be taken.


When I read about the horrors of the Nazis or visit the Holocaust museum, I cannot grasp how this took place....while the majority of the world went about its business being normal.




What will history say about our response?




One final thought.  As much as we want to believe that these evil people are uncommon, they are not.  As much as we long to believe that humans are basically good, and given the right education and upbringing and governmental programs , all people will behave with civility and compassion, that's just not true.  Humans are inherently bent towards evil.  Apart from the intervening grace of God, every one of us is capable of committing unspeakable acts of evil.  And as much as my heart cries not only for rescue of the victims but also irreversible retribution for the perpetrators, I must acknowledge that they need a Savior --- just like I do.  And so I must pray for them.  I must.  I cannot slide back into normal.  They should be stopped and brought to justice but I must not hate them.


Hate is what spawned this evil to begin with.