Sunday, January 7, 2018

Much, Much Too Busy For You

"Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you." 3 John 1:5 (NIV)

Running late, I ran back through the rain and into my house to grab my purse and phone. On the sprint back to my van, I noticed a man by the side of the road bent over the hood of his van, phone to his ear, rain sliding down his utility coat. 

Poor man must be soaked I thought, backing out of the driveway. Hopefully he'll find some help soon.

I looked over one more time to see him pacing back and forth in front of the van, talking furiously on the phone.

I knew what I should do but it was raining. I was late to work. I had a million other things to get done today. I just didn't have the time.

Do you live like this? Rushing here and there, always running behind, trying to get everything done with no time left to spare? No time left for anyone or anything but your to-do list?

I find myself in this position a lot. Not because I want to be there but somehow I seem to end up there, more often than I would like. And this day in particular, I was most definitely there.

When my kids were little, they loved to watch Veggie Tales. One episode was a retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan. As both asparagus walked by the stranger laying hurt on the road, they sang this song:

"I'm busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You've no idea what I have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you."

The word 'Busy' seems to be the theme song of our world right now. Ask anyone, especially a woman, how she's doing and most likely she'll reply, "Oh, busy." And the person asking the question will probably reply with a nod of her head and a "Me too".

In  3 John, we find a letter written by the apostle John to encourage his friend, Gaius. John heard how Gaius was generous, showing hospitality to Christian sisters and brothers who were traveling missionaries needing help and a place to stay when they came into town. For Gaius, hospitality to the stranger was his habit, and his reputation for friendliness had spread, so much so that John wrote to commend him. 

Gaius stands in stark contrast to another leader mentioned in the letter, Diotrephus, who refuses to welcome the traveling missionaries of the time.  He not only refuses to help them, he tells others not help them also. 

The people we come across in our day may not be traveling missionaries but the theme of 3 John should cause us to ask, how do we see the stranger among us? As someone to welcome in with generosity and kindness? Or as an annoyance or an inconvenience?

On that rainy day the stranger on the side of the road was initially an inconvenience. I was busy and had things to do. Thankfully, God caused me to pause and rethink my hurriedness. 

Pulling my hood on tight, I put the van in park and walked over. 

"Do you need help?" I asked. 

He nodded vigorously and pointed his beat-up phone in my direction. "My son," he said, "my son."

No english. No idea where he was and no vehicle to get him to work. His son interpreted for me. I wrote directions on the scrap of paper he pulled from his pocket, rain smearing the ink as I wrote. 

"Thank you, thank you," he nodded as we parted. 

I hopped back into my van. I wasn't late for work. I still got done all that needed to get done that day. And I had a lot to reflect on and pray over because of a certain stranger by the side of the road.

This New Year let's determine to reflect Christ in how we treat the stranger among us. May we stop our hurry to open our hearts, our minds, maybe even our homes, so we can touch others with His love.

This post is also over at Getting Real Ministries. Please head over there and check it out!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

God Notices Your Hard Work

"I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully." Ruth 2:11b & 12 (NLT)

Last spring the school district I worked in laid off or transferred many employees. Toward the end of the school year, I was told I was one of the teachers transferring schools. Although I knew a job cut or a transfer was a possibility, I was still shocked when I found out I was among the transfers.

I told myself to focus on the positives. I still had a job. My family was healthy. God can use all things for good. But honestly, inside, all I could think was how this situation just stunk! I was working really hard where I was. I was putting a lot of thought into my work. Didn't anyone notice? Didn't this hard work have any pay off?

In the book of Ruth, Ruth shows great faithfulness to her mother-in-law Naomi by traveling with her back to Bethlehem. But she doesn't stop there. Ruth then takes it upon herself to do the hard work of gathering grain in the fields for herself and aging Naomi.

Ruth begins to harvest in a field belonging to kindly Boaz. On her first day of harvesting, Boaz just happens to show up to oversee his fields. Boaz takes notice of Ruth and graciously tells her she can stay with his harvesters and gather their grain, drink their water and not be bothered.

Ruth, overcome by his kindness, asks why he is being so good to her. Our key verse is his reply, "I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully." Ruth 2:11b & 12

Boaz heard of Ruth's faithfulness to her mother-in-law. He noticed her hard work in his fields. He rewarded her with kindness and eventually marriage and a beautiful baby boy, Obed.

But not just Boaz noticed Ruth's faithfulness and hard work. God noticed. And God not only blessed her with the earthly rewards, He rewarded her fully with an ancestry line so rich with descendants our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would be born through it. Praise God!            

We all know what it's like to feel our hard work goes unnoticed, whether it be at a job, home or church. The desire for earthly recognition and rewards can be strong and has the potential to overtake our thoughts and attitudes.

Let's do our best to remain faithful like Ruth, to take refuge under the wings of our God despite our circumstances. He who shelters you and keeps care over you will notice. And the Lord who notices will never fail to fully reward.

Lord, I do my best to work hard at my job, at home and at church. Thanks for noticing. Please help me to do this work for you and not for earthly recognition. Help me to remain faithful like Ruth in all things. Amen.

This post is also featured on the Getting Real Ministries blog.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Prayer to Give Us Courage

If you are here from Getting Real Ministries, here is a small prayer for you as you grow in study of God's Word. (If you want to see the article that prompted this prayer, head over to the GRM blog).

Heavenly Father,

Your Word, the Bible, is alive and active, mysterious and holy, and sometimes intimidating and scary. But we don't want to be afraid. We want to be courageous. 

Grant us, Lord, that we may become women who learn to love the Bible. 

May we become women who learn to study your Word. Show us how to turn a study of your Word into an adventure. Direct us to a book, a chapter or a verse where we should stay awhile. Prompt us forward when it's time to move on. And veer us off course when we need a different path.

Lead us and teach us, Lord.


Here are a few verses to help you understand what God has to say about His holy book:

Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Isaiah 40:8 - The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.

Psalm 18:30 - As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord's word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Letting Grace Into Your Summertime

Oh my goodness, Summer! I love summertime. Fresh berries. Pools with the smell of suntan lotion. Lazy breakfasts. Evening little league games and catching fireflies at dusk.

Just as much as I love all of the above, I also need to accept the all that comes along with my summer time loves -- overtired children, sunburns, bug bites and sibling squabbles. Oh, the sibling squabbles...the struggle is VERY REAL around here!

I was going to write about our recent summer vacation to the beautiful mountains in Utah. Scratch that. Then I was going to write about the good fruit the spirit produces and how we need to take captive our thoughts so we can grow that great fruit...yada, yada, yada.

Those ideas are all great jumping off points for future blog posts but the truth is I’m too tired to write it all. My thoughts run around in a loop of ideas and run-ons but since summer is happening all around me, the time and energy to write everything down is few and far between.

All I really know is this: summer time brings lots of highs and lots of lows--and it's perfectly okay to live with both. 

I read this quote recently--on vacation, no less, which is exactly when I needed to read it:

"I fall into the trap of just wanting people to behave instead of loving them right where they are." 

(This is by Sophie Hudson, by the way, in her new book, Giddy Up, Eunice. She and her book, her blog and her podcast are hilarious.)

Ummm, that would be me. I work hard at getting everyone to behave correctly, to not whine, be grateful, cheer up, it will all be okay, and please, use your fork--not your fingers, that I forget that it's not all about outward behavior.

Yes, good manners are a good intention but sometimes it's okay to have all the feels, to melt down and give in to that cookie because it really will make everything better.

I'm not advocating lax parenting and giving in to all our feelings. Not at all. I am just saying that I need to work on acknowledging the feelings and giving grace and love to the feeler of said feelings.

So, for example, if everyone feels a bit tired because of an early morning flight, a time change and adjusting to dry-mountain air, it's perfectly okay to feel a bit cranky. I'm just saying if that did happen. Which it did. Very much so.

I don't know about you but I need the reminder that I don't need to fix them or the situation right away. Or, jump on anyone with admonitions or lectures. My reactions don't make the best lectures           anyway.

Sometimes you just have to ride the wave of crankiness, allow it to happen. Then wait for grace to take its place. Our best moments of growth, spiritual or character-building, happen when grace was allowed room to grow. And when grace is allowed room, love is always right behind. 

This summer, I'm learning grace comes in many different forms. It takes the shape of humor or a joke to make the situation feel lighter. It comes as hugs and hand-holding when someone is not acting very huggable. It comes as a tissue to wipe away tears as we make up silly stories to get our mind off our troubles.

The shape of grace I like the most is time. Time to allow the spirit to work, allowing feelings to rest and the real reasons to unfold. Because aren't feelings just the outward sign of something deep within anyway?

And the best way to deal with the feelings that run down deep is to allow time for the spirit to work. The spirit is the only one who knows and understands those feelings most intimately. A lot better than we do.

Later we can work on manners and kindness and forgiveness and all sorts of traits we want to see grow. But if grace and love don't happen first, somehow, everything else just ends up as a lecture. And lectures are a rocky soil that don't grow the fruit we're looking for. 

Trust me, I've learned this firsthand. I'm still learning it.

So, let's let summer happen. The good, the ugly and all the feelings in between. Let's remember that good outward behaviors aren't the only goal. And, most importantly, let's allow room for grace and love to happen.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Thankfulness

Summer is fun and long and beautiful and weary for a mom. When needed, pack a lunch and meet friends at the park, stay for hours and take silly pictures.

In so many years from now, you'll look back on those pictures and marvel at how fast the time has gone, how grown the kids are and how you wish scooters at the park were all you needed to make a day great.

So thankful for good friends, fun park and scooters. What are you thankful for this summer? Comment below...I'd love to know!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Why We Need Sunday Mornings

So, I slept in a bit too late last Sunday morning. I'll spare you the number of times I hit my snooze button but let's say it was more than just two or three times. 

While hurrying to get myself ready, two out of my three darlings got into an argument of which I tried to referee but really all I did was lecture. 

Then I yelled all over the house for everyone to eat! Change! Brush your teeth or hair or whatever needs to be brushed! Let's go!

Basically, I rushed myself and everyone out the door and out to church. A pretty cranky way to start the day.

I sat in my Sunday School class that day wishing I had gotten up earlier and wishing I hadn't rushed everyone. When I get in this kind of funk---rehashing how I could have done things different and wondering why we even do this Sunday morning business week after week (when sometimes I just want to sleep in!!) -- it dawned on me:

All the things that happened this morning are not why we don't need to go to church on Sunday mornings, it's exactly why we do need to go.

         ~ We do need to go because we get cranky with each other. 

         ~ We do need to go because we love our sleep sometimes more than we love our church.

          ~ We do need to go because we rush and we rush and we rush.

Sunday mornings won't get better if we all decide to stay home. Sunday mornings won't be better if we all sleep in. And Sunday mornings won't be better if we all head to the Dunkin Donuts instead of a church building.

It might seem that way in the middle of the stress but my soul (and the little bit of wisdom I've gained over the years) tells me otherwise.

I may not always know what we need in this family. But I do know the one thing we need and it's found on Sunday mornings.

          ~ We do need to go because we find the support and love of our family there.

          ~ We do need to go because we can never stop learning enough about the Word and our God.

         ~ We do need to go because we need rest from our rushing. And only our Savior can provide          true rest from the rushing.

If you struggle with heading off to church on Sunday mornings, believing the lie that it would be easier to stay home instead, re-think it. Remind yourself of all the reasons you do need Sunday mornings. Your week ahead will thank you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Week Without Prayer Makes Us Crabs

Spring break is over and the kids and I are back in school, on the home-stretch to summer vacation. Yes! The break was nice and the rest well needed but during break, the kids and I became what we like to call 'snappy crabs'--our definition for being crabby and grumpy.

And guess who was the biggest snappy crab? Me, of course! I could sense it over break but couldn't seem to get any of us, especially me, out of our funk.

You know what was lacking over break?

~ Looking back it is easy to pinpoint--we were lacking prayer. ~

Those pinchers were out snapping because of one thing---no continual prayer. I didn't wake up and start my day with my usual routine of prayer for my kids. I didn't spend time at night with them in prayer or reading the Bible. Our dinners weren't always together so there weren't mealtime prayers. Yikes! We were out of zone and it showed!

I could blame the crabbiness on plenty of other things--late bedtimes, too much TV, not enough coffee. Those are all valid reasons in my book but I know in my heart the real reason was not enough prayer.

Prayer works. Spend a few days without it and you'll find your step is out of sync. Next thing you know your husband's on your last nerve, you're picking out all his faults and he's barely in the door from work. Those pinchers are out snapping now!

I know how hard it is to develop a prayer routine. And how much harder it is to maintain it. I feel your pain if you're stumbling around trying to fit in prayer among the millions of others things you do every day.

I don't have a magic prayer devotional that will change your prayer life in five easy steps. Or the next best book or study guide or website. I won't even go on and on about journaling your prayers or waking up just five minutes earlier every day--haven't we all heard it before, tried it before?

We all stumble with our prayer life. It happens. So when it does, start looking back. Start reflecting.

~ Become a noticer of your life and the lives of those whom you love. ~

How can the needs of those around you ignite you back into praying again? What do they need that only your prayers can answer? Has anything changed with you or them? Could the changes, the change in attitude, the change in behavior, the lack of love be because there's a lack of prayer?

Don't become hard on yourself and start feeling guilty. Just start noticing, start seeing with your heart what God is telling you needs prayers...maybe it' s your family, your job, your friend, your attitude. Get back on your knees and lift up those prayers. Then watch for the change. Keep an eye out for it. It will happen, I guarantee it.

I put away my pinchers the other day and replaced them with folded hands. My heart is softening again towards my family. I heard giggles coming from my daughters' shared bedroom and let me tell you, that's definitely a miracle! Just last week I thought we might need to pull out the tape and split the room in half just to gain some sanity and now we're laughing.

~ Prayer is necessary. ~

I need it. My family and friends need me to do it for them.  I'm betting you and your loved ones need it too. So get started. No delays, no excuses. And once you start, sit back and prepare to be amazed.

This post is also featured on Getting Real Ministries! Head on over!

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