Seasons

lemonThe Christmas decorations were placed back in their rightful containers. Some were wrapped with care, others placed without protection. They will stay in those boxes until the end of the year when we again celebrate the season. It’s always a sad time, packing away the trinkets. Many carry precious memories. But life moves on and it’s time for the next season. So we put them away until Christmas comes again.

Our lives are marked by seasons. Some seasons overflow with joy. We celebrate. We embrace the blessings God provides. We are thankful. Seasons of joy are what we live for. They excite us. They remind us we are loved. They give us a reason to celebrate. But would we honestly understand true joy without pain?

No one looks forward to seasons of pain. Not one person hopes for struggles. People don’t ask for hardship or tragedy or dark times and yet they come. They come because it is in those times we see strength. We persevere. We fall to our knees and beg for God to walk with us. It’s in those difficult times we understand God and His love a little more. And when we struggle through coming to the end of another season, we are forever changed. Our perception has been altered. The world around us hasn’t changed but the way we see it has. And joy, what about joy? Joy is that much sweeter.

Each January, we make promises and resolve to live better. It all sounds great but I have far more failed resolutions than successful ones. For me, change doesn’t come because of a date on the calendar or the time on a watch. My life changes through experiences. Those experiences are called seasons. And each season is important. It adds to my life. It changes me. It makes me the person God intended. As hard as life can be sometimes, I wouldn’t give up any seasons, good or difficult.

So, for the New Year I hope to look more intently to see God. I want to be thankful when life is grand and all of my prayers are answered. And I want to see His gentle hand when things seem unfair. More than anything, I want to use those seasons and memories and experiences to bless the people He places in my path.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance,  perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

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A Change of Heart

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“Thank you Lord that we have a roof over our heads. Thank you for the food on the table. Thank you for giving us all that we need and also things we want. Amen.” Those were some words Jonah, my 12-year-old prayed last night. My hubby looked athim and asked, “Where did that come from?” I just smiled.

Last week, Jonah was arguing the point that if I were to go and get a job, we could afford more stuff. He was specifically thinking of a video game console along with games and a cell phone. I guess I have used, “We can’t afford it,” as my standard answer when he asks for something. This time we had a discussion about wants and needs. Apparently, it made an impression because last night his prayer was one of thankfulness rather than requests.

Jonah didn’t get to this opinion overnight. He obviously spent some time thinking about our talk. We talked about why I stay home and how important it is to and his Dad and me. We also talked about what we do have. For some, it may not seem like much but when we started to look at what we had, he saw we did have more than we needed. His opinion didn’t change just because I said so. It was altered because our discussion went to the heart.

Transformation doesn’t happen the instant we are saved. These things take time. They take work. Mostly they require a spirit willing to learn. Some lessons are painful and humbling. Others come through scripture or a sermon. But the idea is that change happens gradually. We can’t expect a lifetime of bad habits to disappear because we follow Jesus. He gently takes one at a time and shows us what He desires for that area of our lives.

Let God take the time He needs to work in your heart. He doesn’t expect perfection, only a teachable heart. It will happen.

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:25-26 NIV)

And for the record, I fully expect Jonah to continue to ask for stuff. Only now, I won’t tell him we can’t afford it, I’ll ask him if we really NEED it. He’s already working up a plan to save his own money for any “wants” he might have:)

A Change of Heart

video

“Thank you Lord that we have a roof over our heads. Thank you for the food on the table. Thank you for giving us all that we need and also things we want. Amen.” Those were some words Jonah, my 12-year-old prayed last night. My hubby looked athim and asked, “Where did that come from?” I just smiled.

Last week, Jonah was arguing the point that if I were to go and get a job, we could afford more stuff. He was specifically thinking of a video game console along with games and a cell phone. I guess I have used, “We can’t afford it,” as my standard answer when he asks for something. This time we had a discussion about wants and needs. Apparently, it made an impression because last night his prayer was one of thankfulness rather than requests.

Jonah didn’t get to this opinion overnight. He obviously spent some time thinking about our talk. We talked about why I stay home and how important it is to and his Dad and me. We also talked about what we do have. For some, it may not seem like much but when we started to look at what we had, he saw we did have more than we needed. His opinion didn’t change just because I said so. It was altered because our discussion went to the heart.

Transformation doesn’t happen the instant we are saved. These things take time. They take work. Mostly they require a spirit willing to learn. Some lessons are painful and humbling. Others come through scripture or a sermon. But the idea is that change happens gradually. We can’t expect a lifetime of bad habits to disappear because we follow Jesus. He gently takes one at a time and shows us what He desires for that area of our lives.

Let God take the time He needs to work in your heart. He doesn’t expect perfection, only a teachable heart. It will happen.

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:25-26 NIV)

And for the record, I fully expect Jonah to continue to ask for stuff. Only now, I won’t tell him we can’t afford it, I’ll ask him if we really NEED it. He’s already working up a plan to save his own money for any “wants” he might have:)

A Change of Heart

video

“Thank you Lord that we have a roof over our heads. Thank you for the food on the table. Thank you for giving us all that we need and also things we want. Amen.” Those were some words Jonah, my 12-year-old prayed last night. My hubby looked athim and asked, “Where did that come from?” I just smiled.

Last week, Jonah was arguing the point that if I were to go and get a job, we could afford more stuff. He was specifically thinking of a video game console along with games and a cell phone. I guess I have used, “We can’t afford it,” as my standard answer when he asks for something. This time we had a discussion about wants and needs. Apparently, it made an impression because last night his prayer was one of thankfulness rather than requests.

Jonah didn’t get to this opinion overnight. He obviously spent some time thinking about our talk. We talked about why I stay home and how important it is to and his Dad and me. We also talked about what we do have. For some, it may not seem like much but when we started to look at what we had, he saw we did have more than we needed. His opinion didn’t change just because I said so. It was altered because our discussion went to the heart.

Transformation doesn’t happen the instant we are saved. These things take time. They take work. Mostly they require a spirit willing to learn. Some lessons are painful and humbling. Others come through scripture or a sermon. But the idea is that change happens gradually. We can’t expect a lifetime of bad habits to disappear because we follow Jesus. He gently takes one at a time and shows us what He desires for that area of our lives.

Let God take the time He needs to work in your heart. He doesn’t expect perfection, only a teachable heart. It will happen.

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:25-26 NIV)

And for the record, I fully expect Jonah to continue to ask for stuff. Only now, I won’t tell him we can’t afford it, I’ll ask him if we really NEED it. He’s already working up a plan to save his own money for any “wants” he might have:)

Parenting ~ Forgiveness

jesusforgives “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NASB)

Many years ago, I heard a Mom share some wisdom about teaching children forgiveness. Following her advice, we have required our children (even as toddlers) to ask for forgiveness. When one offends the other, they have to apologize and ask for forgiveness. The offended party replies, “I forgive you.”  

I’m so thankful I received this advice when my children were young and we were able to implement it. Teenagers (or tweens) say and do and say things that are degrading and disrespectful. What may be fun and games to one child can become hurtful and wounding to another. So, even though they are older, we still require them to apologize (name the offense) and ask for forgiveness. There are times forgiveness isn’t given immediately and that’s okay. However the ultimate goals are forgiveness and reconciliation.

It occurred to me today that no one ever taught me about forgiveness as a child or teen. Forgiveness goes against my very nature. I find it impossible to come to a place of forgiveness without prayer. And sometimes, even when I think I’ve forgiven, a callous spirit creeps back in. It is something I pray about each and every day.

My hope is for my children to be able to move past hurt to mercy. I want them to have a bent toward forgiveness, not away from it. I want them to accept the fact they will hurt others and be hurt by others. It is our human nature. And I want them to understand forgiveness, although it may not be easy, is necessary.

I love the scripture above. When we truly understand how the Father has forgiven us, we want to share that forgiveness in the form of love. I desire, from the depths of my heart, to love well. And I want my children to learn to love well too!

2014 Verse of the Year

words

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14 NASB)

I memorized those words long ago. You see, I have always struggled with my tongue. Over the last 23 plus years of walking with Christ, I have used words to malign another’s character. I have insulted brothers and sisters in Christ behind their backs and to their faces. I have spoken words of judgment over situations without having the full story from those involved. As a result, many years ago, the Lord gave me this verse to help heal me of my diarrhea-of-the-mouth syndrome. Certainly, I’ve become more disciplined over the years going several months without gossiping or speaking unbecomingly of another but I still have my bouts with this syndrome. So I think it’s interesting the Lord has given me this verse to dwell on for an entire year.

One of my goals for 2014 is in my writing life. I have prayed over this for years and have set some lofty but attainable goals for the year. However, it seems unlikely God would use my words for His glory if in my everyday life I choose to use my words for evil. I imagine this year will bring a whole new level of discipline where my words are concerned and frankly I’m excited. I never, ever feel good about speaking ill of someone.

As I’ve thought about this verse over the last several days, I realized there’s more to this verse than “words” though. We see “the meditation of my heart” is a factor as well. Where I choose to dwell will make a difference in my speech. If I choose to wallow in anger and bitterness, it will be apparent in my words. If I choose to look at the imperfect rather than the One who is perfect, I will choose judgment. However, if my mind is set on Him and His goodness and His grace and His forgiveness, then only words of encouragement will be spoken.

I am looking forward to a new year with new lessons to learn. I am excited about what God will do in my life but more importantly I’m excited for the ways He will use me as an instrument of His love. I’m eager to dig deeper into this verse and see where He leads me. And I am thankful He is my “Rock and Redeemer” for I know in my failures He will forgive.

I’d love to hear the verse God has given you for the year.

Casting Stones

A depiction of Jesus and the woman taken in ad...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my favorite things about summer is that I seem to have more time for reading.  I can find the time to sit and relax by the pool with a book. This summer I was introduced to a new author and have fallen in love. I find myself reading a book a week because I just can’t put them down. The last book I read was my least favorite. You see, there was a character who died. As the story played out, you knew someone was going to die and so I thought, “who would make things better if they were gone?” I was hoping that if someone had to die, it would be a character I didn’t like. After all, those people are expendable. Unfortunately, my favorite character was killed off. And the villain got what she wanted. Oh, was I mad. The unexpected always makes for a good book!

This morning I was reading the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. The Jewish leaders brought her there for the sole purpose of tricking Jesus. The thing is, this woman was brought there to be stoned. They were willing to take the life of this woman just to trap Jesus. Wow! Her life meant nothing to them because she was a sinner. They had no use for her. They wanted her dead. That’s how their culture punished. It seems so harsh. It seems so barbaric.

But Jesus came along and changed that. He forces them to take their eyes off of her and look at their own hearts. He asks them to cast a stone if they were sinless. Hmmm. Once they thought about His question they remembered they were sinners also. One by one, they walked away. I can almost hear the thud and see the puff of dust as the stones dropped. I wonder if they were humiliated.

Their encounter with Jesus was not what they expected. I see two things happening here. First, they wanted Jesus to agree with them. I think they had this mentality that if He is so knowledgeable about scripture, surely He would be agreeable. I wonder if they thought they were on the same spiritual level as Jesus. More than that, he had lots of people following Him around. Bigger crowds meant more power for them. I think they wanted Him on their side so they could manipulate Jesus into following their system. If they couldn’t beat Him, they thought they could get Him to join them. How human of them. Have you ever come across people who enticed you to be like them? I have and sadly enough, I have tried to get people to join my side. I’m so human.  

Secondly, and most importantly, every single life matters to Jesus. That woman, regardless of her sin, mattered to Him. He didn’t approve of her sin, but He also didn’t define her by it either. Things haven’t changed much over the last two thousand plus years. We are still trying to judge people based on their circumstance and sin. And we are quick to dismiss someone based on their behavior.

Jesus’ whole purpose for coming was to reach people with His love.  His message is still one of freedom. He is still drawn to the poor, hopeless sinners. The difference is, He now uses us to do His work. The thought of leading someone to know Jesus and hand them eternal life is like handing someone the ultimate treasure. It’s exciting to me.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7NIV