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Archive for January, 2011

Not every one can say they had a good relationship with their daddy.  Mine was a sweet one.

Oh he was a strong willed Croatian disciplinarian who expected his children to behave but he also loved his kids very much.

As a family, we struggled financially.   He worked as a blacksmith for the Anaconda company and just when things were getting stable they would go on strike again and set us back all over again.

What we didn’t have in money, daddy would make up for with gifts he’d make. He once made me steel knitting needles because we couldn’t afford to buy them and I wanted to learn to knit.  He made us the backyard swing set. It was on that swing set where I learned the art of worship.  Pumping my legs to the heavens, I would swing for hours as a little girl singing Jesus Loves Me at the top of my lungs.   My favorite gift was a ring he fashioned out of a nut.  He smoothed it into a round cylinder perfect for my finger and engraved a heart into it.  I still hear him singing an old tune….”Heart of my heart,” as he handed it to me.

Unfortunately I didn’t have dad in my life for long.  When I was 11 years old we found out daddy had a brain tumor.  As we came home from Halloween festivities, the ambulance was in front of our house and daddy went to the hospital for the final time.  Gradually slipping into a coma, we were allowed to go see him one last time.

I’ll never forget standing at his bedside watching him breath.  I believe it was my cousin’s wife Colleen who was a nurse in the room with us.  She told us to go ahead and talked to him.  I must have said something he heard because suddenly my dad squeezed my hand. It meant everything to me.

After he died, as I laid in the living room hide a-bed with my younger brother so we could be close to mom’s room, I called to her.  She came to the bedside and I said, “Do you know the last thing my daddy ever gave to me?”  She answered, “No what?”  My reply with tears streaming done my face was “His hand.”

I’ve thought about that many times through the years when I think about my dad.  The other morning I woke up thinking about that in relationship to God.

Life is rarely easy.  Every day brings new challenges.  There are times of unspeakable pain and joyous triumph.  Touch is important during those times. A hand is such a special gift.

A hand can hold you, make you feel safe, snatch you from danger, lead you to someplace unknown to you.   The touch of a hand can get your attention, even awaken you from sleep.   It can lift your chin up, massage your stress away, or slap your back in celebration of a job well done. These are all the things a daddy should do.  And this is exactly what the hand of God looks like.

He does all that any good earthly daddy would do plus more.   The Hand of God can do even the impossible!

We may not be able to feel his physical hand but it is always there.   As we sit in stillness meditating on Him it’s there.  As we cry out it’s there.  As we walk through the crowds in day to day life hoping that someone will touch us or that we can touch someone, it’s there.

There is no doubt.  The hand of a dad is important.  God’s hand even more important.  You may not have had a good father.  It may be difficult for you to imagine God as a father because of that.  Maybe you can put yourself in my story and imagine what it must have been like as a little girl to have been given that gift of her daddy’s hand.

That is what God is offering you.  Wherever you are in this moment, I pray you’ll reach out and put your hand in your heavenly father’s hand.  Let Him be your daddy.  And as you hold on tight to Him, would you reach out and be His hand to someone else?

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I Am Woman

Some of you younger moms may not remember the turmoil of the feminist movement in the 60’s and 70’s.  Unlike my mom’s generation, whose whole identity was wrapped up in their duties of being a wife and mom, the new breed of woman was often a bra burning, men hating, cultural and political activist.

Funny thing is they were co-opting the real desire of women everywhere–the desire to influence.

Scripture has often been miscontrued to re-enforce some man-made idea about women.  However, it is full of stories of women who influenced their families, business, church, and even led men into battle as in the case of Deborah.

More than ever before, at least in this country, women have options they have never had before. Something is stirring and women are stepping into positions of influence.

In spite of the cultural revolution,  many are still struggling to find themselves. Some women still find it difficult to live outside the expectations of others.  Some are stuck because they recognize they are not the perfect mom, wife, and daughter.  Others have no idea how their lives got so messed up and see no way out of their current circumstances.

But here is the truth.  Eve was created by God, in His image.  She walked and talked with God in the garden just like Adam.  She was known by God.  She was obviously an influencer even then, after all she told Adam about the fruit!  Ever since she blew it, she’s walked in shame and guilt.  And it didn’t help that men, culture, and even religion piled it on.

But that is not how God sees her.  He still sees her as a reflection of Him.  He still wants to know her and be known by her.  He revels in her beauty inside and out.  He is calling her out, back to the fullness she had when she was first created.

She is an influencer.  She can shape the heart of a child and guide her family into their destiny.  She can impact generations by that task alone.  She can impact the business world by her creativity and entrepreneurial talents.  She can influence society by bringing wisdom and compassion into the schools and community.  She can be a driving force for change in the church, the government, the entertainment industry, and a host of other public arenas.

But if women are going to fill that calling, we must allow God to renovate and restore us.  If we are going to influence and bring change to our families and the world, we have to change ourselves.  We have to change the way we think and began to live our lives full of God’s vision for our future.

Helen Ready sang a song entitled I Am Woman.  The first line said, I am Woman hear me roar.  It’s time.  Time for women to take their rightful place with humility and boldness.

No more” just a”  mom or wife.  No more “I’m not worthy.”  No more, “They won’t let me because I’m a woman.”  It’s time to think out of the box and throw off the old ways of thinking.  It’s time to come back to the place of influence we were meant to have.

What do you want to influence?  What steps can you take to begin to make that happen?

It’s time to ROAR!

 

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Tap Root For Life

A strong tree or plant has a good root system.  The tap root is the center root from which all the other roots are developed.

Like a tree, living life well requires a strong taproot.

The entire book of Ecclesiastes is a discussion of life.  Full of questions and philosophy, the author points out many successes and failures in life.  Ecclesiastes 12:13 brings that discourse to a close.  “All has been heard;  the end of the matter is:  Fear God (revere and worship Him, knowing that He is) and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man(the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances  and conditions under the sun) and the whole duty for every man.”

In the past few weeks, character and happiness has been a theme in these blogs.  This verse give us the key to it all.

Revere and worship God, knowing that He is and keep His commandments.

The more we believe God is a living, all powerful, loving God the stronger our life’s taproot will be.  That belief starts with accepting the truth of who He is and what He says.

Anything in our character that is opposite of God’s is an issue of belief.

Anytime we are allowing struggles and circumstances to rip off our happiness and keep us from adjusting our condition it’s a belief issue.

Not all change depends on our belief in God.  We can change many things if we just change our belief about the circumstance or issue.  But there comes a time in every human life where the question or ability is beyond their own strength.  The central question at the heart of every man is  “What do you believe about God?”  The follow up is “What will you do with Him?”

This is not a one time question.  It’s a life question that we have to ask over and over again.  It’s the essence of faith.  The answer is what makes the difference in whether we are going to stay stuck in a detrimental character issue or held back by less than ideal circumstances.

What are you wanting to see changed today?  Go back to the taproot of your life and examine who God is and what He says that applies to that issue.  What do you need to do to let that take root in your heart?   What difference could it make in your life, if you embraced that truth and acted on it?

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Sacred Honor

The last few days have been about honor.  With all this talk of honor (valuing, giving proper level of respect, and acknowledging worth!) do you think it is possible to actually honor things?

I’ve been thinking about that.  Should  I honor money, my house, my body?

Part of honor is treating something or someone like a precious gift.  The more I think about honor the more I ask myself what if I treated everything in my life as sacred? Would that change the importance I put on things and people?

Sacred means devoted or dedicated to somebody.  So what could happen if I considered everything a precious gift from God and dedicated it back to Him?

If I considered my body sacred, would I treat it better?

If I considered food sacred, would it change the way I eat?

If I considered my mind sacred, would I fill it with garbage?

If I considered my money sacred, would I handle it poorly?  Would I hang on to it stingily or give it generously?  Would I invest it to create wealth or use it to make a difference?

If I considered my home sacred, would I consider the every day tasks of maintaining it a drudgery or an act of worship to God? Would I open it up as a blessing to others?  Would I work to create an atmosphere of love, joy, peace, etc?

What difference could it make in my life if I treated everything as a sacred gift and responded from a heart of worship to God?

People everywhere are still trying to figure out spirituality.  They are hungry for the real deal.  They want to see relationships that work, people who make a difference, a “religion” that transforms themselves as well as the world around them.  One of the reasons many reject Christianity or the church is because we don’t live what we say we believe.

I read Matthew 5:13,14 again this morning.  Jesus tells us we are salt and light to the world.  I can’t help but believe that if we began to really see things/people as gifts and treated them with honor we would see a real difference.

What is sacred to you?  How does that impact your life and the life of others?

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Priceless

A quote from a facebook friend this morning read,

“Never take someone for granted. Hold every person close to your heart because you might wake up one day and realize that you’ve lost a diamond while you were too busy collecting stones”…

This whole idea of honor is really stirring my heart and spirit.  This morning I was thinking about the scripture reference to children honoring their parents.  I asked myself, Did I honor mine?  Did I honor my children? Then I began to think about people I really don’t agree with or people I don’t even really like?  How is it possible to honor them?

Needless to say I feel lots of ouchies as I contemplate this topic.  The more I understand it the more I know I fallen short.

In many of the passages of the New Testament where the word honor is used, it comes from the Greek word time pronounced teemay.  It means value and references money paid as an example.   Esteem (to the highest degree), dignity, precious are other words in the definition.

To me it seems kind of like that Master Card commercial.  They start with some pretty general cool things and then end with the thing that is really important, calling it priceless.

What could happen if we began really treating every person we ran across as a priceless treasure?  Regardless of whether we agree with them, or if they look right, smell right, act right!  Regardless of whether they hold the same belief system or political bent?

What could happen if I stopped pushing away the people I don’t like because I’ve seen some character flaw(or at least in my opinion), and instead sought to understand them? Can’t understand them if I never have a conversation with them.

On this one, I have an example of what could happen.  When I first started attending my church it was an out of the box experience.  There were quite a few young people and many of them were unchurched or from a culture I had no experience with.  You have to understand I was raised in church and had pretty narrow experiences outside of there.

This one particular young man not only had piercings, tattoos, big hair, skull tee-shirts, and the like, but he was influenced by things that were not good and in my opinion even demonic.  I struggled a lot and avoided him as much as I could.  I’m not proud of that but one day God shifted my thinking.  One night as I was thinking about him, God asked me to pray.  I prayed over him a lot that night.

From that point on, I began to strike up conversation.  I began to reach out.  I learned about his past, learned about his pains, learned about his dreams for the future.  I offered to be there for him.

Over a year later, I can say I’ve watched him move closer to God and learned so much about myself through our relationship.  I feel like a mom to this guy, in fact, he calls me mom.  I’m proud of him.  Not because he’s perfect and looks and acts the way I think he should all the time but because I see the cry of his heart and soul.  Because I believe in all that God has put in him.  Because I can see the beauty in his journey.

What could happen if I began reacting in honor instead of anger or rejection, even when I don’t receive the same from someone else?

What could happen if I saw how priceless I was to God and treated everyone else with that same honor and value?

I know I can’t do that on my own.  I need the help of the Holy Spirit.  I need Him to fill me Him to remind me, stir me up, and empower me.

I want to honor God by honoring all men.  After all, all men are created in His image.

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Foundation of Love

In his book Secrets to Lasting Love, author Gary Smalley writes, “Honor is a powerful force, the virtual foundation of love.”

He’s referring to marriage in his book, but I’m being challenged to think about honor in every relationship.  Those relationships come in all different sizes and shapes.  Some are deep, intimate relationships and others are casual.

Casual or deep, it’s easy to honor someone who agrees with you, thinks like you, or acts like you but not so easy when what they think, say, and do bugs the crap out of you!  Have you been there?

I’ve spent way too much time in our 39 year marriage trying to get Erv to think like me.  Duh!  First of all what makes me think I’m so smart?  We are so different and both quite stubborn so compromise is something we don’t do well.  Something has shifted though in the last 10 years.  We are honoring our differences.

Where I use to perceive our differences in critical areas as one of us was right, the other wrong, I’m beginning to see how boring life would be if we all thought alike.  The sweet spot is appreciating the differences and figuring out what would work for both of us and if it’s critically important to one or the other….honoring that.

Growing up, I  spent a lot of time in a household of conflict.  Looking back, I think the main reason was differences weren’t honored.  We didn’t understand the fragile nature of the soul.  Especially in our own home, we need to have a safe space.

Honoring the differences will help us work around the conflict in our relationships. Here are some tips.

1.  Laugh at the little differences.  Move your focus away from the day to day likes and dislikes about your relationships.

2. Try to understand where they are coming from. Why do they think it’s important?  How important on a scale of 1 to 10 is it?

3.  Accept the things you don’t understand. Unless it is truly a matter of right and wrong, there are times to just let it go and value them for who they are.

4.  Look at the ways your differences could be used to create a stronger relationship or bring about change.

5.  Choose life building words of honor and respect.  Phrases like “Your problem is…”  “The trouble with you…..”  bring accusation and wounds.  Better to shut your mouth than add to the wound or conflict that is already there.

6.  Be quick to ask forgiveness.  Blowing it is part of life.  Acknowledging our failure to act with honor is important.

7.  Remember honor is a decision and is not something earned, it is given.    It is a gift.

Who do you want to have more honor for?  What are the attributes you respect and value in them?  What could you do today that would show your honor for them?

 

 

 

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Almost every day when I type this blog, God speaks to my heart and challenges me to change something.

Today is no exception.

Over the last several months, I’ve been looking at relationship issues.  By focusing on this area of life I’m beginning to see things in a whole new way.  Looking back at my relationships, I’m realizing what worked and what didn’t. And in the areas that didn’t work so well, I’m finding a stronger way to maintain and build healthy relationships.

I’ve done some things right in my relationships.  I’ve kept giving when I didn’t have anything left to give.  I’ve kept praying, looking to God to meet my needs instead of the other person.  I’ve kept working on myself.  But there is one area (and probably others) where I never got it completely.  I never really saw it like I do now and I’m realizing what a difference it makes.

What is it?  Honor.  What is honor?  Honor is the value, importance and worth we give someone. It’s viewing someone as a precious gift, acknowledging importance and thereby worthy of respect. Not because someone has earned it but because they are.  Honor is a gift.

I’ve always wanted to honor God, but I can’t say I have  honored myself or others.  Never really considered myself worthy of honor because I thought it was about being acknowledged for what I did instead of valued because I was. Since I didn’t honor myself as God’s creation and just because I am, how could I honor others?

Somehow I got the idea that honor was earned and I could never do enough to earn it. Trust is earned but honor is given.  All we have to do is look at Jesus to recognize that truth.  Jesus saw us warts and all and decided we were worth his life.  He made himself a gift of honor to the world.  O.K.  now I’m sitting here with tears flowing.  I am so grateful, how can I do less?

So I’m issuing myself an honor challenge.  Here’s what I’m going to do over the next 30 days by the power of His Holy Spirit in me.

1.  Look at my relationship with God, the specific others in my life, and myself and make a decision to honor those I’ve not honored.

2.    Make a list of all the attributes of God, others, and myself which are honorable.

3.  Publicly and privately speak words of honor, for God and others.

4.  Speak words of honor over myself.

This is not an easy challenge but it is critical for healthy, strong relationships.

What do you think?  Will you join me?

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Don’t we all love a good fairy tale.  Haven’t all of us women dreamed of being Cinderella at the ball?  Sometimes we try to create our own fairy tale.  Sometimes we wish we had a fairy godmother.  No one is gonna wave a wand and create the ballroom of your dreams.  You’ve been given the ballroom of life and if you’re gonna do the happy dance you gotta move your feet across the floor of the room you find yourself in.

So here’s some more dance instruction from Matthew 5:5-9.
Regardless of your outward circumstances,

Step 3–Be gentle, patient and longsuffering (Matt. 5:5)

Step 4–Stay hungry and thirsty for right relationship with God.

Step 5–Be merciful (show compassion)

Step 6–Keep a pure (clean) heart.  Make sure there is nothing between you and God.

Step 7–Make and maintain peace.

All of the above are certainly not easy but they are possible.

The one I have the most trouble with is step 7.  Sometimes it’s hard to make peace.  In relationships, it’s hard to not demand my own way.  It’s hard to give up my right to be understood.  It’s hard to let God be God instead of me!

Within myself, it’s hard to make peace with my failures, or my inadequacy, or my pride.  It’s hard to make peace with my unreal expectations, my need for approval, and the wounds of injustice.

In life, it is hard to exchange the clanging noise and the crashing waves of the storms of every day living for the quiet voice of God that says, “Peace.  Be Still.”

Interesting that the steps that lead up to #7 are the things that help us make and keep peace.  Living in peace takes intention.  It takes focus.  At times, it takes minute by minute practice.

But in the end, it’s worth it to live a happy, enviable, spiritually prosperous life.

Where do you need peace today? What could you do today to make and maintain peace?

Whatever you need today, wherever you find yourself or your life, I hope you’ll choose to dance this happy dance.

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I’m kind of liking this Happy Dance conversation.  I hope you are too.

It’s so easy to think of happiness as a state of mind that depends on what we are experiencing in life or our current circumstances.  Think about it.  What do we say the opposite of happy is?  Sad.

We are all going to feel sad in life.  Sadness is really the result of experiencing or becoming aware of some type of loss. We grieve the loss of a dream, people we love, a job, a relationship, or even things that we’ve attached our hearts to.

Matthew 5:4  gives us a key to finding true inner happiness in the middle of our sadness over loss of any kind.

Step 2:  True happiness is produced by our God experiences and revelation of His grace.

“Blessed and enviably happy (with a happiness produced by the experience of  God’s favor, and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace) are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!”  (Amplified)

Dealing with loss is a process.  I don’t want to imply that you can get over something simply by choosing to.  There are many stages of grief and each person handles them differently.  However, it is possible to have a sense of inner peace and happiness even in the middle of great loss.

I’ve personally experienced a lot of loss in my life.  Here are some things that I’ve found helped me get through it.

a. Remember the good things.   Thinking about the good memories of someone we’ve lost, or the experiences we are grateful for in life, or what we’ve learned from our relationship can help  us. Those thoughts take our focus away from the actual event that caused our loss and moves it to something we can hold on to.

b.  Remember God. Sometimes, we can’t find much goodness to think on, especially if our loss has to do with a broken relationship.  But regardless of the loss, there is one thing we can cling to–God’s favor and grace. This is explained further in the next point.

c.  Remember you’re not alone. Whether you have people in your life or not (I hope you do!), you are not alone.

I love the word favor.  Experiencing God’s favor doesn’t mean we are singled out exclusively for his blessing above anyone else.  It does mean that when God looks at our situation His eye is on us and what we need.  At that moment, we are His concern. We have his full attention.  He’s not distracted, but present with us in our loss.

Grace is the other word in this passage.  God’s kindness and blessing in the past and present, and His promise of continued grace for the future can see us through any loss.

When I hear the word revelation, I usually think of it in terms of some divine insight given supernaturally by God.  That is very true but there is a practical side to revealing something.  Think of it as an uncovering.

If you are experiencing grief and loss, what could you do to reveal the favor and grace of God to you at this moment?

Several things come to my mind.  Of course, tell God about your grief and ask Him for His comfort.  Maybe make a list or journal about all the good memories, or gifts that you’ve been blessed with in the relationship or because you’ve had this life experience.  Remember what God has done in the past for you.  Focus on the blessings, miracles, kindnesses of God in your life and rest in the fact that at this moment His eyes are focused on you.

d.  Let go.  Many years ago, I read a book called Praying Our Goodbyes. I found it very helpful in the process of letting go do I could move on.  Whether you read it or not, praying openly and honestly about your grief will help you move on.

Mourning is a prerequisite to being comforted. “Blessed (enviably happy) are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”  What a blessing to be able to say “I have been comforted by God!”

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Want To Do The Happy Dance?

Yesterday I posted a few questions on facebook.  What is happiness?  Is happiness what we are really searching for?  How does someone find happiness?

The words in red (Jesus’ words) have a lot to say about happiness and where it comes from.  That is really the meaning of the blessed in the beatitudes. (Matthew 5)

So over the next few days, let’s learn the steps to this happy dance that God offers us. I encourage you to look up these verses in the Amplified translation.  If you don’t have one, you can find it online at http://www.biblegateway.com.

Step #1:  Verse 3–life-joy and satisfaction come from God’s favor and salvation.

“Blessed(happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of outward conditions) are the poor in spirit…”

Yesterday we talked about what poor in spirit looked like.  All of us have bankrupt places in our life.  Emotional wounds, physical conditions, and a host of factors from inside us and outside circumstances can cause empty or “poor” places.

In my experience there have been times when I have stuffed my feelings or tried to pretend the empty places didn’t exist.  Most of the time for me it was because I needed and had been taught to be a “big girl” or to maintain the image of the “good” Christian who always had this enormous amount of faith in God.   When the empty places were as a result of “poor” relationships, it was because I didn’t want conflict.

But I learned that stuffing or hiding never works.  In fact, it makes it worse and causes the brokenness to last even longer!

This scripture tells us that our poorness in spirit is a point of happiness or blessing.  Here’s how I see it.  Our poor places become poorness in spirit when we recognize our own insignificance or inability to handle the empty places.

That’s where our happiness or blessed state can happen.  We don’t try to find what makes us happy.  We don’t try to make happiness happen.  We come to a place of surrender.

We surrender to  God as the source.  He is the source of comfort, peace, joy, power to change the inside and outside.

We surrender to God as our rescuer, our salvation.  We understand that we can’t do life without Him if we want true happiness.

We surrender to His favor.  We accept the fact that God loves us whether we feel like it or not.  We accept that everything He offers is for our good and our blessing.  We stop looking at Him as a cruel taskmaster and let Him captivate our heart with His love.

When we come to Him with nothing is when our hands our most open to receive all the blessings of the kingdom of heaven.

Empty, poor, broken, is good when we bring it to Him.  We will never walk away without being filled and in a better place.

Will you say yes today and join me in Step 1 of the happy dance?

 

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