Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tools of the Trade

If you are checking out my blog for the first time after attending Mom Time today, welcome! If you are a regular reader, welcome too, and stick around! We are going to be talking about the challenge of memorizing scripture, but more than that, why it matters. And what to do with it after you have memorized it. I was thinking about that aspect after Mom Time this morning. (I will confess to my MT ladies that Tuesday afternoons are spent thinking about what I should've said...) Anyway, I should have said that it doesn't matter how many scriptures you have tucked away in your head if you aren't using them to help you in your day.

I have a picture of Rosie the Riveter in my kitchen...she is the factory worker from the 1940's with the caption You Can Do It. She encouraged me through the summer to keep working towards the goal of the Danskin Triathlon. Recently though, I came across Zechariah 4:6, which says "Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord." So, Rosie got a tattoo on her bicep with that scripture to remind me that that is how I will get things done...by the Spirit of the Lord.

Having said that, I do need to point out our responsibility to be in the Bible, to be looking for Scriptures to apply, and to put forth the effort to memorize them. For me, writing a verse on an index card and posting it in more than one place seems to work well. I say it aloud a few times, but writing it, for me, is what makes it stick. I also find that if I actually write out a grocery list, then forget it on the kitchen table, I can still remember what was on it. We are all wired differently and writing seems to sear something into my brain. For you, reading it outloud or even recording it and listening to it repeatedly may work best. If you have an ipod, you have a feature to record a message. As weird as it might feel, give it a try.

I don't have a "fancy phone", but I did see that there are downloadable apps for scripture memory. Who knew?

Here are some links that I found while researching this week's lesson. Some of them even list verses for particular situations to get you started.

Even though I am not musical to the point of setting scriptures to music, there are plenty around who are...Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Third Day, Lincoln Brewster. I am always pleasantly surprised when I am reading my Bible and find song lyrics there. It is easy to sing a song knowing that you are quoting scripture, and it makes it that much easier to remember.

If you have tried some method that has worked for you, leave a comment and share with the rest of us...I am always open to a new idea.

God has given us an amazing tool of life transformation through His Word, but it won't work if we don't make it part of our lives. We have to abide in it (John 8:31-32), not just visit occasionally. To be fair though, the desire to abide begins with a visit, a gaining of trust and familiarity. You may not want to "abide" immediately, and that's ok. A journey of 1,000 steps starts with the first one, right?

Crack the binding on the Bible, say a prayer for God to direct you to what He has for you, and start reading. Make it a matter of little bites at first instead of a buffet. It's not about how long you read, but what you can take away from it. It might be one verse that really speaks to you, or it might be the whole book of Galatians.

Read expectantly, because the Word of God is living and active, (Hebrews 4:12). You may read a verse that you've seen a thousand times and it suddenly bonks you on the head in a whole new way. That is not random; that is the Spirit communicating something that God wants you to know.

Read it with curiosity...do a little cross referencing to get the full picture. There are a few sites that I regularly visit to give me insight into a verse or section that caught my eye.

Sometimes just reading a devotional type article presents a scripture in a way that speaks to me. I get the devo from Proverbs 31 delivered to my email everyday. It is all about life as a woman, whatever your status or season. There is a place at the top of the page to sign up for the email if you like this.

I could go on forever about this topic...helping women learn who they are in Christ is a passion of mine. I look forward to hearing what scriptures you found or what techniques you are trying as you grow in your faith.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Deceivers and Distracters

One of my favorite things to do is rearrange rooms and give new purpose to a space. As enjoyable as that is for me, it can sometimes be a trap. Since taking the step of giving voice to some of my writing dreams, I've been repurposing the craft room into an office. It was a process of moving all scrapbook, stamping, jewelry making, and sewing items into another room, and setting that room up as an "activity center." We turned it into a homework/art room. (That's the upside of having kids leave the nest....you get rooms back.) Then began the process of turning the room formerly known as the craft room into an office. I spent a good week standing in the middle of the room dreaming about what would inspire me when I walked in. Bright or calm? Beach themed or gerbera daisies? Blues and greens or yellows and oranges and pinks? I got so bogged down trying to plan what the room should look like that I was having trouble actually writing in it. I wanted it to be just "so" before I could use it.

Becoming a Christian is a little bit like that. We get excited about following Jesus, but then Satan steps in to tell us everything we do wrong, all the reasons we aren't qualified to come to Jesus, and we wait. We wait until we quit drinking, smoking, swearing, fighting with our kids. We wait until we feel like we can go and blend in with all the other "perfect people" at church, until pretty soon we've forgotten what we were waiting for. And the victory goes to the enemy.

Can I tell you that the deceiver will do everything he can to keep you away from Jesus? He is the father of lies, and any whispers you hear in your head, that you aren't worthy, that you should stay away, that you screwed up too much to come back, are not of God. If you have accepted Christ as your savior, Satan knows he can't take that away from you. Ever. But he also knows that through lies and deception, shame and defeat, he can keep you from living out the life that Jesus died to give you. The enemy can make you feel like your feet are so mired in sin and quicksand that you will never see the light of day, but that is why he is so good at being so bad. His name, Satan, means "one who separates." He will do everything possible to keep you separated from God, whether just in this life or through all eternity.

If you haven't accepted Jesus as your Savior because you are believing the lies that Satan pours into you, stop. There will not be one of us in Heaven who deserves to be there. We only get there because we are invited in by God, because of what Jesus did for us. Romans 3:23 tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." All of us. Even the ones that don't look like it. Stop waiting until you feel perfect enough to answer His call.

My journey with the office has gone the same way. I didn't want to write in it because it wasn't set up...all I could see were details that had to be sorted out. The longer I spinned my wheels about how to decorate, the less I felt like writing. I began to question the call on my life to write. Maybe I don't really have anything to say...Then I just...did it. I sat down at my little kitchen table in here, fired up the computer, and started to write. For two hours early one morning, I wrote everything I felt like I had to. I didn't look around at what I wanted to change, or imagine different pictures or paint colors on the wall. I just wrote. Regardless of the state of my office, I can still write, because that is what I came to do.

And regardless of the state of your life, Jesus can save you, because that is what He came to do.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
Revelations 3:20

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thoughts on the Loose

He saw the "F" word on the bathroom wall at school the other day. While Connor doesn't know what it means, all kids know that that word is a heavy hitter, absolutely never allowed, a reeealllly bad one. After he and a buddy saw it, they went to tell the janitor about it who cleaned it off the wall. Like so much in life, out of sight does not mean out of mind.

Everyday presents teaching moments with our kids; we all know that. However, while I wish this particular opportunity hadn't come up quite so soon, the principle that Connor is learning applies to more than just this situation.

Connor has confessed to having trouble not thinking about the word, to which I promptly told him to try hard not to think about it. He said he couldn't not think about it. Then it hit me....this is a perfect opportunity to start teaching him about taking every thought captive.

Too often we assume that we have no control over where our minds wander to, which personally I think is a cop-out. It takes discipline and awareness, but it is possible to direct our thoughts in the direction we want them to go. It is more than just "not" thinking about something, it is choosing to focus our minds on other things. Have you ever tried not to think about the argument you had with someone, but spend all your mental energy rehashing and replaying and hoping you get a chance to fight again because this time you have all your come-backs ready? Or maybe you are trying really hard not to think about the Halloween candy, but it keeps calling your name. (That's why I buy stuff that I don't like to eat...)

2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. That means when something isn't lining up biblically, we capture it. We replace it with a truth of God, which is scripture. Find a scripture that speaks truth into whatever situation you are dealing with. Prayer is good...God please help me not to think ugly thoughts...but it is not the tool of choice. Andy Stanley says it is like trying to drill a hole with a hammer. A hammer is a wonderful tool, but it is not the tool for the job. To make our thoughts obedient, to make them go where we want them to, we need the Word of God.

Some great go-to verses for relationship difficulties are Philippians 4:6` and Ephesians 4:29 . Philippians teaches us how and where to focus our minds, and it isn't on the things that makes us nuts. Ephesians reminds us of how we are to use the power of our words. When an unwelcome thought comes into our head, instead of letting take control of our emotions and giving it room to grow, we take it captive by saying a verse that speaks to the situation. If I am afraid, I might recite Joshua 1:9 that says "Do not fear, for I am with you." It reminds me that God is always with me, whether or not I feel it.

If you don't know how to find a verse to cling to, check out http://www.blueletterbible.org/ ; you can enter key words to search by. It will bring up verses with that particular word in it. It takes discipline and awareness of what is going on in our heads to direct our thoughts. Diligence is required. It is a slippery slope from thinking an ugly thought to harboring ugly feelings to creating an environment of bitterness to out and out not liking someone anymore and deciding to do life without them anymore. This saying puts it pretty succinctly:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

For Connor, while I shared some scriptures with him, I started laying the groundwork that he is responsible for what he thinks, and that it starts with what he allows in his head. He couldn't help seeing what he saw, but he didn't need to keep coming back to it and talking about it with his friends. He gave one word room to grow and take up a lot of space in his thoughts. For practical advice, I told him to think about skateboarding and everything he loves about it. Focus him mind elsewhere and not give the other word room. Crowd it out with different words. It was working pretty well until he saw a cheerleader sweater with a giant red "F" on it...

If all this talk discourages you, let me encourage you with one of my favorites, Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You can do this.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just Today

This is my favorite time of day, sitting between the boys watching what I fondly refer to as "stupor tv", dulling our minds before bed. Little Bear, Toot and Puddle, nothing loud, as we three sit shoulder to shoulder letting the day slip away. I'm blessed with the ability to ignore the call of housework at the end of the day, knowing that whatever didn't get done can wait until tomorrow. These are the days I love, being a mom to little boys who still love a good snuggle. I know they will be grown too soon.

I've been thinking a lot about what plans God might have for my future, particularly my writing and speaking future. I get anxious sometimes, feeling like life is passing me by. Then I look around at all I am blessed with...health, family, a great husband, good friends, stability, and realize that the future really doesn't matter. I have dreams and hopes and plans, but right where I am at is my favorite. Whatever ministry God has planned for me will grow out of the life I live, and I am content to live it one day at a time.

This is the day the Lord has made;
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Freedom Run

Hearing much commotion and celebration in the dining room, I ran downstairs from where I was busily rearranging bedrooms...it's sort of a hobby of mine. Anyway, Gracie, my adorable dog of unknown descent, had gotten her collar tangled in the neighbor's lilac bush. When she was able to pull herself free, she came scratching at the patio door instead of running the neighborhood. This was a monumental change in behavior from the dog who just two months earlier would wait by the door in anticipation of escaping.

I was thrilled to see her new response to freedom. Off her leash without any supervision, Gracie could have been anywhere before we even knew she was gone. Instead, she came right to the door. She knows we are her people; she knows this is where she belongs, and she was doing everything she could to get back inside to safety.

I've been off my leash for awhile now, so to speak. The triathlon that consumed every waking thought is over. Swimsuit season is over. The intense structure of my life is over, and I am floundering. I'm wanting to eat with reckless abandon...and not the healthy stuff anymore. Moderation is not really a word in my vocabulary; being a strong finisher is more my style. Whether it's a race or a pan of cheerio-peanut butter-marshmallow treats, it doesn't matter. (Just for the record, I was advised that they aren't any good after a day or two, and that they should be eaten quickly. Just doing my job, ma'am...)

As in all areas of life, the Bible has a word for me here. I even know what it is without looking.

"For freedom Christ has set me free. Stand firm, therefore, and submit no more to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

He did not set me free so that I could run wild through the neighborhood. Or my cupboards, for that matter. He did set me free from the things that seek to enslave me. No freedom actually exists in the "right" to eat everything I see. Freedom does not give us permission to act on our impulses, like a teenager with our parents out of town. Freedom is the gift Christ has given us. The snare of bondage tightens slowly, enslaving us while we think we are in charge of our lives.

Before I became a Christian, I was leery of the Bible and all of its rules. No one was telling me how to live my life. I was way off my leash and no one was taking that away from me. Instead, I found myself living a life of fear, shame, loneliness, and regret. Not exactly the freedom I'd been looking for.

I've been a little aimless during this transition to a new season, a little unfocused on how to handle this next phase in my life, a little undisciplined. One of my favorite scriptures is in Hebrews:

"Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with ENDURANCE the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith." Hebrews 12:1-2

It's time for me to scratch on Jesus's patio door and come back in the House where it's safe, pay attention to the slipknot around my ankle, and run with endurance the race set before me, in this time, in this place. Not the race I wish I was still running,or the one I feel like it is my right to run, but the new one that comes with this season. Being a strong finisher is a good thing...it gives me drive and determination. I just can't let it lead me in the wrong direction. And of course, keep my eyes on Jesus, the Author of all my days.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fish and Loaves

We call it being real, the way we downplay the dreams that God has buried in our hearts. As they begin to unfurl, like a bulb deep underground, starting it's trek toward the sun, we bury them. We tell ourselves that it makes no sense...there's no way I could ever__________, fill in your own blank....sing in front of anyone, adopt, stop drinking, share our story, write for real, speak in public. What do you do when you feel God leading you in a direction that shakes you to the core, rattles the deepest parts of you?

You know what you do?

You offer it back to Him.

Lay it at His feet, be willing to follow where He leads, and allow Him to use your dream as He wishes.

I was reminded of the fish and loaves this weekend during a prayer at the Women of Faith conference. Honestly, that is all I remember from the prayer because I was fixated on fish and loaves.

Crowds, at least 5000, needed to be fed. One little boy had one little lunch that someone packed for him. A few fish and some loaves of bread.

A few fish and some loaves of bread that fed the bodies of thousands, and the souls of countless millions who have heard the story of the miracle God brought from one child's offering.

I wonder sometimes why anyone would want to read what I write or hear what I have to say, then I remember the fish and loaves. I will offer God my crumbs...my dreams...my wounds...my fears...and allow Him to do as He wishes. This morning, as I taught in Mom Time, I alternated between being super excited and really wanting to hurl, but knowing at the same time that I was stepping into the dream that God has given me. Wherever He leads, I will follow, barf bag close by I'm sure.

As we head into the next series at church, and get on the path of becoming all that God has for us to become, I am excited as I think of all the dreams out there, waiting to break through the hard soil of realism, the healing that God wants to do in our generation, in our communities, that will only come when we stop telling ourselves why it isn't possible. I am excited to think of the people who never even knew they had a dream...were worthy of having one in the first place...start to imagine where God might be waiting to use them. Give God your little basket of hopes, and watch what He will do with it.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.”
Ephesians 3:20

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Laundry Soap and Jesus

After hearing all my friends raving about their homemade laundry soap, I decided to give it a try. A little Fels soap, a little borax, a little super washing soda, lots and lots of water, and voila', we have laundry soap. A whole lot of laundry soap, as a matter of fact. I've been sharing it with anyone who wants some. One friend asked if I had trouble finding the ingredients, and I said, "No, they are all right there in the grocery store. You just have to be looking for them to see them."


Right in the back of my head.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness." 2 Peter 1:3

"You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all of your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." John 14:6

God's Word, the Bible, truly has the answer to every situation you might find yourself in. We like to argue that times have changed in 3,000 years, but really, not so much. People don't change. The details may change, but situations generally remain the same. Jealousy, greed, anger, mixed up love, bitterness...alive and well today just like when they were addressed in Galatians.

Proverbs is a treasure trove of advice for real living, for real people. People who don't always say the right thing at the right time. I heard a great definition of nagging from Patsy Clairmont at the Women of Faith Conference. She said nagging begins with a brilliant idea of how to fix something. A brilliant idea that no one is listening to, so you keep repeating it. Over and over. Proverbs has lots to say about nagging and getting along with others.

Not that I know anything about that personally...

Just sayin'.

Philippians is one of my favorite destinations. Kind of puts my whole life in perspective and reminds me what is important. Here's a clue: it usually isn't what I think. Whenever I am in a complaining mood, I have a friend who always says "Go read Philippians." Yes ma'am.

When life hurts, I go to the Psalms. When I'm royally ticked off, I go to Psalms. When I am so full of joy I can't put it into words, I go to Psalms. When I have totally screwed up and don't know where to go, I go to Psalms. David lived a wild life, but through it all, he praised God; he is the author of most of the Psalms and has put my emotions to words many times.

It excites me to no end to share God's Word with you. More exciting than sharing laundry soap. They even have an ingredient in common: water. Lots and lots of Living Water. It will get the stains out of everything. Trust me.