Tasting the honey

"I want honey," she whines for honey drizzled over her Cheerios. Life is sweeter when we stop to taste the honey, when we stop to see the honey of God's blessings.
Samson was a miraculous gift as the couple was barren (Judges 13:2). Though, when you discover his strong-willed, self-centered, persistent, flippant personality, you have to reason that he was an incredibly difficult child to raise. Yet he was a gift.
Come to mind God's special gift, a child we weren't necessarily planning, yet God is a good Giver and blessed us. This pink package is our most strong-willed, persistent child. Yet she is a gift. I confess I do not always receive her as a sweet gift. Perhaps because she is a gift God uses to refine me.
At news of the child, Samson's parents were eager to raise the child in the way of the Lord. Manoah asks what is the child's manner life and what is his mission (Judges 13:12). No doubt these parents followed the messenger of the Lord's instructions. Prior to conception through marriage age, they obeyed the Lord by keeping Samson pure, set apart to the Lord's service. However, at some point in Samson's parents' life, they had to trust the Lord with His plan for Samson's life. Samson, determined to get the desirable Philistine woman at Timnah, was part of God's plan to gain leverage against the Philistines who were afflicting Israel (Judges 14:4). His parents knew Samson should take an Israelite woman as a wife, not a foreigner. What is a parent to do when their children make poor choices? Trust in the Lord. Do I trust my children to the Lord? Do I let them make mistakes, believing God will protect them and His will be done? Or do I parent out of fear…that the golden heads will fall into my bents toward sin, that they will make mistakes that are too big (this is unbiblical heresy)!
Samson's parents didn't see all Samson's battles. On his way to Timnah, Samson tears a lion apart using the gifting of the Spirit: superhero-like strength. Although, he breaks one of his Nazirite vows by touching a dead body, I wonder if this is symbolic of the battles children face while their parents aren't helicoptering. Still, God gave Samson his gift of strength. Interestingly, God revealed to Samson, not his parents, what his gifting was. So God will reveal to His children their gifting. And God will refine His children, it is the parent's job to be obedient to Him as Samson's parents were in keeping the Nazirite vow while raising him.
Samson didn't want his parents to know that he had broken the Nazirite vow and that honey had come from the dead lion carcass. Yet they tasted the sweetness. Could this be a type of reward for his parents? Will God allow me to taste the sweetness of obedience to Him in raising His child. The golden heads will at times choose disobedience (as do I), but when I am obedient, will I taste the sweetness of my child's giftings? Now and years from now, God will allow me to enjoy the sweetness of watching my golden heads do the good work He has prepared of them.
Even after the disaster of his first wedding celebration, his parents were there for him to return to (Judges 14:19). This is the last mention of Samson's parents. Will I repeatedly have open arms for my children to return to unashamedly, knowing they will be accepted and loved?
God has loved me with an everlasting love.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continues my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3
He never comes to end with me. I confess that I do come to the end of it with my children, but through God's gift and power, I can love them as He loves me.
In which way do you most relate to Samson's parents: receiving God's gifts, obedience, trust, tasting His sweetness or everlasting love and acceptance? First acknowledging His gifts, then we can begin to taste the honey of blessings. Praise God for His gifts, the power He gives to obey and trust His ways, His blessing and faithfulness.

Take My Life

  1. Unexpected to me, the life of Samson (Judges 13-16) resounds greatly in my soul. Two totally different topics strike me. Samson's parents and Samson as a servant of God. First, Samson as God's servant.
  2. As a child we read stories of Samson, impressed by his God-given gift of strength, like a Old Testament Superhero. Yet, as an adult we see Samson's life marked by lack of character and missed opportunity to bring God glory. Samson was self-indulgent, hot-headed and lacked self-control. Had Samson lived for God and others instead of himself, what an inspiration he would have been. Yet God used Samson to do His will and protect the Israel from total oppression by the Philistines for twenty-years. Samson could have totally saved Israel and ruled in righteousness had He been totally sold out to God. However, this was God's plan and His plan always prevails. When God's servants are not seeking Him for direction or obeying His ways, they aren't submitting to God's divine authority and typically, it doesn't go very well.
  3. Taking stock of my life, am I really that much different than Samson? In struggling to rebuild relationship with the engineer, what God has revealed to me most recently is how selfish I am with my time. Saturday with the family, continually self-speaking, Die to self. "Yes, I'd love to help you do that."It's not about me. "Yes, I'd love to look for that with you." Direct my paths Lord. "Yes, let's play a game." Left on my own, I would have rather had done something for myself, shopped for myself, spent money on myself, made my favorite dinner. But, I've tried that and it didn't go very well. For years, after the golden heads were tucked in tight, I spent my time doing what I wanted to do. Time was seldom spent doing something with the engineer. Under the same roof, we went our own ways. It doesn't take long before I realized, I don't have any of the same interests as this man I live with and I don't even think I love him. Yet love is a choice. I need to choose to build relationship with him. I need to put myself aside and choose him. It wasn't going well. What's amazing is choosing to put self aside and spend time with the engineer immediately results in a closeness and intimacy. It's so evident. Choosing God's way and prioritizing others is the way God will bless.
  4. My life these days is filled with self talk. I don't know how long this happens before it becomes first nature. Maybe it never will be. But it is the right road.
  1. The path of the righteous is the like the light of the dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. Proverbs 4:18
  1. My life is not mine. I do believe my favorite hymn is "Take My Life," by Frances R. Havergal.
  2. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  3. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  4. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
    Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  5. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  6. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  7. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
    Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.

  8. Take some time to sing to the Lord and ask yourself these questions: Am I choosing to live for the Lord or for myself? Does my life inspire others to walk more closely with the LORD? Decide to yield yourself to His complete control and rest in His strengthening power.

The Giver

What has our Thanksgiving holiday become? Honestly, the thanking is often set aside as thoughts run toward time with family, turkey, pumpkin pie and Black Friday Sales. But twice God has stolen my attention. Once in an email, the sender intending good but missing God, types on her thoughts of Thanksgiving,
It's a nice time to reflect on what each of us have and how much we take for granted and should be thankful for.
Somehow I think the point is missed that anything we have is God's on loan to us and so we should give thanks to the Giver.
Second, in a study of the Names of God, my thoughts fixed on Yehavah Yireh: the name of the place where Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac, his only son to the LORD. However, the Giver sees the need for a substitutionary sacrifice and provides a ram (Genesis 22:8-14).
So in our lives, God sees our needs first, then provides. Even now, sitting at the computer trying to reconstruct my thoughts, my entire body shakes in intense anxiety. I need peace. He sees my need. He will provide.
As I look over the New Testament verses I'm overwhelmed at the generosity, unlimited resources and power of the Giver.
In past generations He allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet He did not leave Himself without witness, for He did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14:17 
He who did not spare his own Son but willingly gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 
And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 1 Timothy 6:17
He has unlimited resources and power and even when we walk in our own selfish ways, He willingly, generously provides for us. Isn't He the Giver?
While I have confessed my own falling away from making Thanksgiving a reflection and an offering back to the Giver, I was delighted to learn when Thanksgiving was instated by President Lincoln, the intention was to collectively thank God as a whole nation.


October 3, 1863By the President of the United States
A Proclamation
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
Take assessment of your heart's attitude toward the Thanksgiving holiday. I know that changing my attitude will result in God granting me the peace that I desperately need. As I wait expectantly for His provision because I know He sees it, I start a new list of gratitude… 

  1. The compassionate one making pancakes for breakfast
  2. The engineer cleaning the kitchen
  3. The engineer strumming guitar
  4. Gigi
  5. Big coffee cups
  6. Pinochle with the oldest girls
  7. Zodhiates Greek Dictionary
  8. Knitting needles
  9. Sunshine warming through window
  10. ...

Won't you begin a list with me?

Nurture


As my favorite annual gerberia daisy comes to live inside and cold sets in, my quest is that it survive winter and create many happy blossoms again in the spring. How many mornings I walk into the room to see the blooms drooping, in dire need of water.
Isn't our relationship with the Maker like that? Like any other relationship, being friends of Christ takes time. I know time is best spent

  • Reading the Word
  • Studying the Word
  • Meditating on the Word
  • Memorizing the Word
  • Applying the Word to my life
It seems that if much time passes without any of the above, I begin to wilt like the Gerberia Daisy.
Psalm 119 sings of the sweetness and desirous nature of God's Word and instruction. 
How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth. Psalm 119:103
This morning my plant is in worst state ever, but my relationship with my Maker is solid. Waiting on The Lord during my "drip time," I realize my marriage is also a relationship that needs constant tending to...nurturing. I covet your prayers as the engineer and I work through new obstacles. This new phase of parenting preteens is emotionally exhausting, and I am so selfish desiring time on myself, not on us. Paul's letter to the Philippians convicts me.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection, any sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:1-4
Selfishness with my time is not honoring to God. Forgive me Lord for not making my covenant with You and the engineer higher priority. With Christ's power, we can overcome!
Make time to read all of Psalm 119 this week and consider your own love and seeking of the Word. Does it measure up to the Psalmists'? Assess your most important relationships (spouse,  siblings, parents, close friends). Which relationships need some nourishing & how will you water, prune and fertilize that relationship?

Cling

I can't seem to get it from my mind: cling. When Joshua gave the Israelites their last charge in Joshua 23, CLING to the Lord was in his directives.
Be strong to keep and do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left…but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. Joshua 23:6, 8
This Hebrew word literally means to be glued. It may be translated, to be attached to God as if you were glued to Him. A couple word pictures come to mind. The new couple: they can't do anything apart from each other, they hold hands constantly, hold hands, they are consumed with each other. A hungry baby longing for the milk he needs for his very life. Do I hold fast to God and His Word in the same way?
How do we cling to the Lord? What actions do we need to take?

  • Read God's Word
  • Study God's Word
  • Meditate on God's Word
  • Memorize God's Word
  • Listen for His sell small voice
  • Apply God's Word to my life

Every morning, God reminds me, peering out my window, a few last maple leaves, clinging to their source branches. He echoes, "Cling to me, child. That last leaf will fade away, but you can cling. I am strong enough to hold onto you through all seasons."
Interestingly, it seems like we'll cling to something be it an idol, thorn in our life or the one true God. Joshua uses the same word just three verses later to describe the Israelite's alternative option: cling to the remaining Canaanites and their gods.
Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you…know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you… Joshua 23:11-13.
It's absurd that we might choose to cling to anything but Him. It is so obvious, any choice but Him leaves us powerless and alone. But I do. I cling to food. I cling to productivity. I cling to entertainment. I cling to the disrespectful behavior of a golden head. I cling to selfish desires. When I revert to the ways and thinking of my old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, I beg God remind me to put on the new self that is being renewed day by day (Ephesians 4:22-24.)
Peering out toward the pond, the silhouette of two remaining ducks capture my thoughts. They waddle on the thin sheet of ice that lay just under the water's surface. Then they sit in the icy water. Stand, sit, stand, sit they repeat. I'm reminded of Peter, walking on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus rather than the tretrorous waters (Matthew 14:28-30). I could cling to Him and walk on water in the midst of my trials with the calculating one, or I could let my mind cling to the current struggle and sit its icy cold waters. There are always two options.
When the calculating one has pushed all my buttons and I begin to scream, but Jesus' name forms on my lips and I rest in Him for that moment...This is clinging to the Lord.
Examine your mind, soul and emotions and answer the question, "What am I clinging to?" If you are not clinging to the LORD, what steps will you take to claim the new eternal life given to believers?

Parenting from the Book of Joshua

I never suspected the book of Joshua to have so much application to my own life. What pleasant surprise and gift! Add that to the list.
God told the Isrealites to purge all the inhabitants of the Promised Land.
'Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans…But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.'
Numbers 33:54-56
In parenting the golden heads, I need to drive out sin (disobedience and disrespect) so it's not a thorn in my side and trouble me the rest of my days.
The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 29:15
However, I relate to the Israelites, who were tired of fighting. It was easier to let some Canaanites remain. And too in parenting, it's easy to let some things remain or slide rather than fighting another battle. But to disobey God is to invite trouble and make myself crooked.
Thorns and snares are in the way of the cooked;
whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:5-6
Entry into the Promised Land for the Israelites required tedious patience, spiritual sensitivity, wisdom and unity. In our microwave society, parenting takes much time and consistency, crock pot approach if you will.
Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Ask the Lord for power (Isaiah 40:28-31) and wisdom (James 1:5) in the slow and steady tasks set before you.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unreachable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him.
James 1:5

In the abyss

One snide remark and I've spend the last week in the abyss, unsure of who I am in Christ. Anger fills my heart toward that owner of those rude words. Yet I know that God is using this for growth. To become more like Christ. To remember that I am secure in Christ, claiming my identity in Him. My weight doesn't define me, it might explain me but it doesn't define me. I am a child of the King. He's crazy about me. I am free.
As I've wrestled with this issue again, I've thought about being thankful. Seeing what God's given as a gift to add to my list of 1000+. In mid-vacuum swipe, I came to my senses: I need to be thankful for my weight. It was this wrestle that brought me to a deeper relationship with Him! After my last golden head was born, I began the Lord's Table. I lost weight, but more importantly, I began to understand that life is more than food, that "Man does not live by bread alone," as Jesus quoted Old Testament in the desert (Matthew 4:4). This obstacle was pivotal in my daily walk with Jesus and really began my deeper love for Him and seeking of Him. Thank you God that you used my insecurity to bring me to You.
What has brought you closer in intimacy with Christ? Have you thanked God for it? God never wastes a hurt (Rick Warren.) The issue you wrestle with the most, can turn you to God or make you run away. Even if you run away, He will stay right by your side. "If we are unfaithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny His Himself." 2 Timothy 2:13.

Trust and deepest desire

"Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and feed on faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:3-4

Nearly two-years ago, we had everything we owned packed with nowhere to go. Trust in the LORD. We knew that God had opened the door for us to move back "home" to Minnesota: it had been an on-going 4-year prayer to get closer to family, a good fit job was offered to the engineer and in a slumped housing market, our rambler sold in just eight days. Living in my parents' basement for an undetermined span of time, we searched for a home in the southern metro area. After three months, we moved into our home.
So we were dwelling in the land, and it became apparent that feeding on His faithfulness was essential to get through the grieving process that accompanies moving cross-country. We experienced both strikes and affirmations. The strikes: missing deep friendships, Montana's landscape and recreation, no connection in a local church, and realizing the different culture into which we had slid (who knew Montana and Twin Cities mentality was so different?) "But we prayed!" is what my mentor reminded me as our first affirmation. Another affirmation was glaringly obvious: little more than a month after moving in, Micah was admitted to the ICU in Rochester with failing kidneys and complications. We found ourselves to be the closest family members to the hospitals there and couldn't imagine being 13+ hours from helping my sister and her family. We don't always get the big picture, God often chooses to reveal one-piece at a time. Feeding on His faithfulness was learning to have a heart of gratitude. Being thankful for His faithful provision & blessings increases my trust in His plan for me. I began my mornings listing that which to be grateful:
  1. Having the "Sechler Seven" around my table the night prior
  2. Light on the pumpkin pumpkin bars for dessert so Micah can have one
  3. Mike & the engineer laughing at how similar Traci & I are
  4. Living in Minnesota
  5. Being with family
  6. Traci talking about the Big Big House Micah's going to
  7. All the good food Micah will soon get to eat: Mountain Dew, chocolate, pizza with lots of cheese...
  8. The engineer playing Mario Kart with his nephews
  9. The sweet sound of cousins playing
  10. Singing and praying alongside Micah before we left
  11. Kissing Micah's head
  12. "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller on the radio
  13. The engineer being girl-trapped 5 times over
  14. Cousins playing outside without shoes on
  15. A face to face visit with Lori
  16. ...
Recalling His faithfulness by listing my blessings from Him, is an act of delighting myself in the Lord, not "the good old days" living in Montana or when my children were younger and "never" disobeyed. After the Israelites lose men & stature to the soldiers of Ai, we saw Joshua turn his lament to the Lord (Joshua 7:6-9). Am I wise enough to turn my sorrows over to the Lord? And I wise enough to truly trust in Romans 8:28, "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." When I contemplate on the next verse, I see this tough stuff is used to conform me to His image. "For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son..." Becoming more like Christ is the deepest desire of my heart, so even though the transition of moving (yes, even two-years later) is hard and parenting the calculating one is the most taxing thing I've done, I delight in the faithfulness of the Lord and continue to trust in Him.
Are you are trusting in the Lord to work in your current battle, working it out for good? Consider how is He using the same circumstance to make you more like Him.

Drip time

Months ago, I ditched "drip time" because it seemed counter productive. I could use that time to take a quick shower and then grab coffee in one hand and Bible in the other. But it's been reinstated.
In church yesterday, we were challenged with the question, "Are you filled with the Holy Spirit and directed by Him?" In order to be directed by the Holy Spirit, we need to take time to stop, be quiet and listen. For some busyness is an idol. For me, productivity is an idol. I tore it down.
And after the beans are ground, the pot turned on, and the coffee aroma begins to fill the air as hot water drips through the filter, I snuggle in. I stare at God's gorgeous creation. Watch a sunrise (or the twinkling stars). Listen. And that's when I realized, "drip time" is back.
Are you in step with what the Holy Spirit is doing? Do you need to begin your own "drip time?" Make time listening for God part of your daily routine. Ical it in today!

Who needs fifteen?

Countless times recited to the golden heads, is Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judy Viorst. It recounts the awful day of a grade school boy. At school, we complains of his teacher, "At singing time, she said I sang too loud. At counting time, she said I left out sixteen. Who needs sixteen?" Our days at preschool have also been a chuckle as the boisterous one has developed a habit of leaving out fifteen. "Thirteen, fourteen, sixteen..." Who needs fifteen? 
Bad habits are both difficult to break and easy to revert. The best thing to do is run away from circumstance that which tempts us. Like the fudge sauce staring me in the face last night; I should have run away! I know that I can claim the power available to me. How do I know this?
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature,having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4 
The greek word for power is where we get the english word for dynamite. This dynamite power of Christ's is mine for the claiming when I know Him. And how do I know Him? Relationship. Investing time developing real relationship with Him. As we develop a deeper relationship with God, we attain all we need for life and godliness. And along the way, we discover His great and precious promises. According to one person's count, there are 3573 promises in the BibleApplying and living by the promises He gives us, we become more like Him. 
Understand that this relationship with Him isn't a microwave relationship. It's a crockpot. It takes time. One promise is that He gives us new life (2 Corinthians 5:17.) This is how I know that I can change my old habits. And how I know that when I go on auto-pilot and revert to old habits (yelling at the goldenheads, judging the engineer, eating fudge sauce by the spoonful), I know that the crockpot came unplugged.
I don't want to spend my life wallowing in a jar of fudge sauce. I want to become more like Christ. I need to stay plugged in, developing relationship over time. I need to simmer the crockpot. I may not really need fifteen, but I do need to be more like Christ.
What are you doing today to develop your relationship with Christ? Second Peter encourages us in verse 5 to start with faith, then add virtue, then knowledge, then self-control, then endurance, then godliness, then affection and finally love. If this is a progression in our relationship with Christ, where are you and what can you do to simmer the crockpot?

Made: By God...Like "us"...To run to

Bible lying flat-open, perched over with preschooler, learning from Adam and Eve. "What do you learn about Adam?" He is made by God, and yet God made Adam in "our" (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) image. "So are you made by God and like God. You look like God." The preschooler's mind quickly moves onto science and recess, yet my mind stays hovering over the fact that I'm made in the image of the Trinity. God is not alone. Jesus: not alone. Holy Spirit: not alone. Neither am I meant to be alone. The Trinity is in perfect fellowship or relationship. Because I am made in the image of God, I am made for community and relationship.
And it comes again, darash: inquiring of Christ, running to Him, seeking Him. Seeking Him makes me to commune with Him. Is the path of my relationship with God wore down like the "Beaten Path" through the Beartooth Mountain Range or is it an overgrown, easy to miss path like many Minnesota State Forest trails? These pictures flood my mind as I run to Him. Even now, not feeling well, needing strength to make it through school picture morning with emotional golden heads and then pinching my finger besides. Run to Jesus! And His indescribable peace washes over me as the pain subsides.
I am made like God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am not God. I need relationship with my Maker, so I will run to Him. Run to Him when the day is beautiful and the birds sing. Run to Him when goldenheads are rude and crabby. Run to Him when I enjoy a refreshing day at the lake. Run to Him when anxiety fills my soul.
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will expeience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippains 4:6-7
You were not meant to go through you life alone. God, your Heavenly Father created you for relationship with Him, with Christ and the Holy Spirit. When moments of your day get "heated," run to your Maker and experience peace.

Steadfast

sterizo: To set fast, to fix firmly; to make steadfast in mind, confirm and strength. It seems like where we may get the english word, steroid. In looking at the various references to this word throughout the greek New Testament, I see two listed in the book of Romans: 1:11 and 16:25. Beginning and end chapters of this letter.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-- Romans 1:11
Now to Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ...Romans 16:25a
Paul longs to spiritually strengthen the Romans. God is able to spiritually strengthen us. I long to do the spiritual growth for my golden heads. But the work is God's. I can give them foundation and resources, but God makes them flourish. I am reminded of wisdom shared by my gracious mother-in-law who prayed during the younger years, "Lord, take my feeble attempts and work this out for good."
Whether you have your own little ones or have influence on lives of your disciples, acknowledge your own limitations and pray that God make them steadfast, stronger and built on solid foundation (1 Peter 5:10).

Confessions of a blogger

I often check out during closing comments. But Paul's closing catches my attention in Romans 15:26-27.
For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.
We are indebted to share spiritually and materially with the saints, a.k.a. Christians. Paul is explaining his current status. He's on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a material gift to the poor Christians there from the Macedonians and Achaians. Twice, Paul repeats in verses 26 & 27, this pleased the Macedonians and Achaians and they were indebted. They owed the Christians in Jerusalem a favor. There seems to be a free interchange between a spiritual gift and a material gift.
It would seem the community of believers, Christians, are to be givers as God is a giver. In Romans 15 paints for us an incomplete list of God the a giver of...

  1. perseverance
  2. encouragement
  3. joy
  4. peace
  5. hope
  6. power
  7. Holy Spirit

When you're giving you become very closely knit together. You become family. Recently, we had the pleasure of taking six little girls out for ice cream at the county fair. The golden heads had friends join us for the day and we teased them that they had become "DeWildes for the day." As one little friend began to throw her ice cream cone away because she was full, the engineer says, "Don't throw it away," somebody in our close knit "family" will eat it. (And they did.) Giving of time and resources made us family.
Therefore it's logical for Paul to say in verse 29, that when he finally is able to see the Romans eye to eye, he "will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ." I've never noticed that the presence of believers is the full blessing of Christ. Do I see that when I'm with other Christians? Being with them is an abundance, full measure of favor conferred from God to me. It is for my full benefit. My cup should overflow.
The intravert in me doesn't know exactly how to take this. Camping with 40 people from church recently was overwhelming. I confess a grumpy attitude. I was focused on myself and missed the full measure of God's bounty. Looking back, I see what a pleasure it is to surrounded by so many people who love and accept you for you.
Last week, at the county fair again reaffirmed this truth. In the swine barn, surrounded by "competitors" that wouldn't smile or say hello. Not in it for the cut-throat competition, this was difficult to be surrounded by closed, excluding people. Contrast that with coming across friends from church who were warm, open, and including: the full blessing of Christ.
What gifts can you give materially and spiritually? Pray that God reveals and convicts you of what you are to give and then be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Do you feel indebted to anyone? Act on your God-given convictions (Romans 14:13-18) and watch as he knits you together with other believers and you begin to experience the full blessing of Christ.

A tiny little Hebrew word

Continually remembering to take Jesus' yoke...still a daily challenge. I may be mostly through the day, hours after my morning cup of coffee with Jesus begging to let Him lead me (the younger, inexperienced ox) and yet, at 4pm thinking, "Oh, I forgot to let Jesus lead." I am so frustrated! Yet, I know His mercies are new every morning and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Trudging on, ho!
Then tucked in my study of Romans (15:12), trying to follow the apostle Paul, he quotes Isaiah 11:10,
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples--of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. 
Isaiah is predicting the righteous reign of Christ, a future event. A future that gets me stoked! The imagery of the wolf and lamb, cow and bear painting a picture of peace and rest is often quoted in this chapter of Isaiah. In that peaceful day, He will be a signal or banner. I picture a white flag of surrender as the nations, everyone, allows Him to rightfully rule and reign. And then looking deeper into the meaning of the word translated inquire, I am graciously blown away at His revelation to me.
The Hebrew word darash, H1875, is a verb that has multiple meanings:

  1. To tread a place with feet, therefore, to go to a place frequently, to go to a person frequently with prayer, to implore his aid. (This is where we get our root word for threshing.)
  2. To seek, search after.
  3. To inquire from one.
  4. To ask for, demand (beg, ask back, punishment).
  5. To study, follow, practice, anything--to apply and care for anything.
To be frequently approaching Christ, seeking him, studying him, following him. Isn't this a beautiful picture of what it means for me to continually, constantly remember to take Jesus' yoke? And Isaiah's prophecy comes with a promise, "his resting place shall be glorious." The nations darash on Christ because they expect (hope) that He will answer, heal, help, guide, etc. Interestingly, when Paul quotes Isaiah's prophecy, he uses the word hope in place of inquire. Therefore, he obviously thought to inquire was synonymous with hope. Inquiring is similar to hoping, expecting His answer and as a result of this hope, Isaiah promises that we will receive rest! This is the easy yoke Jesus means in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, an you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. 
Christ is the hope in flesh. Without treading a worn out path toward Christ we have no hope and no rest. I am in Christ, but how do I darash Him? How do I have the persistence of a 4-year old who never gives up the asking and tugging on my arm until I go exploring with her or play a game with her?
Starring at the page, does verse 13 (Romans 15) answer my questioning?
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Paul believes God to fill the Romans with joy and peace so that their lives are marked by very much hope/darash/seeking/treading possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. So I start now by treading a path back and forth to Jesus and in time (marked by joy and peace) I will abound in the seeking. The path from me to Jesus will be a beat down dirt path. This is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. I need to pray the Holy Spirit helps me darash.
Join me today, in begging the Holy Spirit allow us to darash (tread back and forth, inquiring) Jesus each day this week. In a week, we'll see if our status is marked by rest.

Lightbulb



Sometimes things just click. Come together. Sometimes I can suddenly say as Mr. Gru in Despicable Me, “Lightbulb!” And God in His gracious, merciful being reveals these truths to me in layers, perfectly timed so that I might see the picture He's masterpiecing.
Driving last weekend, Dara MacLean's, "Free" came on the radio. Belting it out as countless times before, suddenly I realized God wants me to claim my freedom.
Hurting heart and broken wings
Cannot stop Your love from always finding me
No more days wasting away
I finally realize the gift inside of me
My strength alone will never be enough
Your arms keep lifting me up.
You tell me I've been made free
You give me everything I need to walk in my dreams.
I saw a glimpse of God telling me, stop claiming your insecurities...I made you free. When you feel insecure, claim that I have made you free.
My mind went to studying "Who I am in Christ" through Neil Anderson's book Victory Over the Darkness. I am accepted, secure and significant. When I feel insecure about my body, I need to continually claim that I am complete in Christ, there is no condemnation for me because I'm in Christ, I am adopted as His child and He can never reject me.
Fast-forward two days...working through discipleship with a mentor and parked in Matthew 6:25-34. In my 30 years of following Christ, I have never notice Jesus saying in this verse, "Do not be anxious about your life...nor about your body." Years of quickly summarizing this passage saying, don't worry about food or drink or clothes but I’ve missed the phrase tucked between those two…“nor about your body.” The birds don’t worry but simply carry on daily tasks as God created them to do. They take care of their bodies but don’t worry or fret about their bodies.
My mind quickly tries to justify, but what about the literal scars on my body from the past: Stretch marks, flabby skin? Yet Jesus took my shame upon Himself, on His scarred body on the cross (Psalm 69:9).
Jesus doesn’t see those literal or emotional scars anymore so why would I fret about them?
Therefore, do not be anxious saying, “What do I look like?” For unbelievers seek after these things and your heavenly Father knows your body. Instead, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33, my paraphrase
Anxiety is to be replaced by two directives. The first, seeking the kingdom of God, is submitting every area of my life, even my insecurities, to Him and letting all of me be under His domain. The next directive, seeking His righteousness, is choosing to obey His commands, His written Word. When I take the focus off myself (my insecurities) and focus on His rule, reign and my obedience to Him, security in my body image will be given to me.
In studying this scripture, the question was asked, What have you let rule and control your life in the past months? Why? Lightbulb! I suddenly see that in trying so hard to overcome my bodily insecurities by reading books, studying how to, I have let these bondages that I’m trying to break free from, rule and control my life, motives, actions and attitudes. I have also let food, what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, etc, rule my life. The insecurity of my body and food has been sitting on the throne of my life. It is what I have been focusing on instead of Christ and allowing His rule on my life. Why? Deep down, I don’t trust God to heal or sustain me through this process. But what of trust?
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And rely not on your own understanding,
But in all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
And we know that for the good of those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:38
Lack of trust, lack of His rule and reign in my life, has resulted in no spiritual fruit, no peace, no gain in self-confidence. Jesus said by their fruit you will know they are His. I have lacked fruit. I want fruit.
So I keep thinking, who cares? Who cares if I eat dessert? I am accepted. There is no condemnation for me. Who cares if I have a belly? God calls me His own, I am His and He can never reject me. When insecurity creeps in, I literally say, Christ doesn’t care about the insecurity; it doesn’t define me. He accepts me.
Realizing this truth is huge, but consistently, continually letting Him rule and control my life is my next step. The hardest step. In my quiet time, I see and grasp this concept so easily and clearly. Then the day begins…I quickly loose sight. A visual comes to mind of Jesus’ yoke. Neil Armstrong describes Jesus’ teaching recorded in Matthew 11:28-30 in his book Victory Over the Darkness. A yoke is designed for two oxen, pulling in the same direction. Often, a younger ox is trained side by side by an older, seasoned ox. I am the younger, inexperienced, don’t know what I’m doing at times ox. Jesus is the strong, experienced, older ox carrying most the burden, teaching me. And when Isaiah paints a contrasting picture of worn out or renewing strength in chapter 40:28-30, I see the yoke:
He does not faint or grow weary;
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
And to him who has no might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
And young men shall fall exhausted;
But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles;
They shall run and not be weary;
They shall walk and not faint.
Growing up, my parents had a corkboard with the phrase, “Things I have to remember not to forget.” So as I focus on being yoked with Jesus throughout my day, I think to myself, God, help me to remember not to forget that YOU are the seasoned ox, I may be weary, I may feel insecure, but You call me Your own and You renew my strength.
What or who has been ruling and reining your life the past months? Why? What steps will you take today to let God back on the throne of your life as the seasoned ox?

Study, peck

Dirty, messy and they freak me out swooping in, out and around the cool, shaded patio. Barn swallows perch on the rain gutter adjacent to the comfort of my sunroom morning reflection and study chair. I am not suppose to like these birds, but can't help admire their glistening blue silky feathers, accented with orange faces and light bellies. They are joined by specked robins in their resting place. All species participating in the same action: grooming.
Watching the study, peck, study, peck pattern, it is revealed to me: learn from the birds. They examine themselves, constantly.
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! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong...2 Corinthians 13:5-7
God seems to keep nudging me: Am I pursuing righteousness, peace and joy? God knows my heart already but am I as David in Psalm 139 opening myself to His correction?
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24
Do you have the heart of a student? Declare to God that you want to be teachable, to be aware of your faults and humbly make corrections. Every outward change begins in the depths of the heart.

Seed


Quickly pulling the covers straight...this is making my bed these busy days. Its soft brown hue in contrast to the deep brown catches my attention. From the front walk this small daisy seed has traveled to the heights of my own bedroom. Brushing the how aside, I ask God, why a seed this morning?
My mind settles on the change in pace this week has brought with it. A schedule packed with little buffers, the evenings spent serving a community alongside ours with games, treats and sharing truth of Jesus. Ah, yes, we are planting seeds and who knows where these seeds with land and on which kind of soil they will settle. But even more, closer to home, I think of the seeds planted in the hearts of my own golden heads. Am I nourishing the seeds with righteousness, seeds of peace and joy? Not so these busy days, too many thorns of annoyance, anxiety, stress, impatience.
Jesus forgive me for throwing thorns at my little ones instead of nourishing the seeds in rich soil.
Are you planting and nourishing seeds or dropping thorns? Ask Jesus for forgiveness and the Spirit to lead you in righteousness, peace and joy.

Serving in

I am God's servant (Romans 14:4, 18). He saved me to work and before I was born, He prepared work for me to do for Him (Ephesians 2:8-10).
The expected motivation for the work in Romans 14:17 & 18, jolts me: 
..for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who is serves Christ in righteousness, peace and joy, is acceptable to God and approved by men.
First, remember that the kingdom of God is within the believer and it's not temporary (as is eating and drinking) but permanent. When you believe Christ as God's only Son and accept His sacrifice as sufficient payment to God for your sin, the Holy Spirit comes to live in you...that's the kingdom of God within you forever. Since this is a permanent and welcome invasion in your life, we should be concerned about lasting things:
  1. Righteousness - God's standard of rightness & perfection, declared about us by Him.
  2. Peace - Here it means the absence of confusion. Therefore, consistent and firm conviction that will not confuse others in regards to your motives and decisions. Further, God first declared peace with us  (Romans 5:1) so now we are to pursue to end hostility with others.
  3. Joy - Chara, exceeding gladness that results in thankfulness. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).
All three pillars are gifts from God to us. And when righteousness, peace and joy are driving factors of our acts of service, they are pleasing to God and others. Being approved by men is a bonus, what I desire most is to be acceptable to God.
First, I ask myself, am I serving? Then, I need to access my motives. Am I serving in righteousness, lack of confusion (peace) and joy? Consider these questions:
  • Do I pursue truth in all situations? (Rather than assumptions or gossip.)
  • Do others clearly and consistently see through my words, actions and attitudes why I serve?
  • Do I build others up by my service?
  • Do I serve with so much joy that it causes myself and others to be thankful?
These questions are convicting. I see need for improvement and adjustments. Especially in the area of mothering. I often jump to conclusions or assume the golden heads' disobedience or omission. Taxed, I often complain about my circumstance instead of realizing that I am blessed no matter the situation. What kind of example is that to my family and others? My words and body language often tear down their little hearts. I need a tune up, focusing on righteousness, peace and joy.
Ah, words. There is much power in the spoken or written word. A struggling, insecure 9-year old compassionate golden head who's momma told her she's beautiful, knows without a doubt that she is beautiful despite what the mean girls at school say. I know it all too well myself, I still recall, sitting on mom's bed, caught shaving my arms because I thought the hair on them was ugly and mom saying, "You're such a pretty girl." From that moment on, I knew deep down that I was pretty simply because my mom said it. There's something about a mother's affirmation. I don't even believe the sincerity in the engineer's words when he says I'm beautiful. They feel as words of obligation, not heart-felt conviction...but mom saying I look beautiful in my bridesmaid dress...now I know my worth.
In my own life, the power of these words is affirming as I struggle with my own beauty and value. Is the key to overcoming my insecurity, building others with my own words?
Pursue the things (righteousness, lack of confusion and joy) which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God (others)...Romans 14:19-20.
I am determined to affirm others (in truth) in the area of my weaknesses (esp. beauty and value). It may not be their struggle but to me, it takes eyes off self and places it on others.
These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates (own minds) judgements that are true (righteous) and make for peace (lack of confusion in regards to my own motives). Zechariah 8:16
Survey your area of service, and if needed, ask God to graciously move you toward righteousness, peace and joy.

Happy

So much rattles through the space between my ears. Today, I've reacquainted myself with the difference between being blessed and being happy. Strong's number 3107, makarios, and adjective meaning

  • blessed
  • favor with God
  • fullness from God
  • said of those who believe in Jesus, God's Son and are then indwelt by the Holy Spirit
  • satisfied no matter the circumstance
  • kingdom of God in your heart
  • opposite of needy
  • in the world, yet independent of the world
  • satisfied by God, not circumstance

What strikes most is that I am blessed and it isn't dependent on my circumstances. Last night, mothers visiting, realizing that we need to soak in the moments of now, not just look forward to the future. Yet, how do I keep from yearning for what's next, assuming it will be better, more blessed? I know the key lies in giving thanks...counting my gifts. Ironic that a synonyms for makarios is eulogeo (2127), to bless, thank.
I know
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promise so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature..(2 Peter 1:3-4)
and that
I have been filled in Christ, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:10)
Happiness depends on circumstance. Indeed, the root hap means luck as a favorable circumstance or happenings. A circumstance is temporary: the spilled milk, the millionth "teachable moment", the fighting sisters, broken dish, a whining or defiant child. But the kingdom of God in my heart is now and it is eternal (Luke 17:21).
Again, I will begin my list making...1000 things to thank God because I AM blessed. Determine today to begin a written list of reasons you are makarios.

Stormy Weather

Each night lately around here, brews with it another powerful thunderstorm. I recall the first evening, lying in bed, unsure if I heard bits of hail or just hard pelting raindrops pounding the window, imagining the ruin I would wake up to in my garden and potted flowers. Yet when the sun began shining, I rose to find every plant looking healthier than before. And each morning after storm, there has been new flowers that seemly bloomed overnight despite the wind and pelting rain. 
It makes me think of my life on earth, when life's storms rage, do I emerge blooming or stripped and dying? Neil Anderson, makes the analogy explaining that we as believers are diamonds in the rough, but given enough time and pressure, we will emerge brilliant, shining diamonds, revealing the glory of God (Victory over the Darkness, 84).
As I reflect on my own pressures, the theme of loss emerges; grievousness. The biggest loss of Micah, first on the list, if followed by a loss of friendships left behind in Montana, loss of grandma, loss of intimate and edifying relationships, loss of the essence of Montana in the summer, loss of deep  friendship with the engineer (because life is too busy.) As the tears flow, I know I have much for which to be thankful. My God is a good God. But I am needy and afflicted, as Mike shared this week;
I am afflicted and needy; hurry to me, God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay. Psalm 70:5
Though I ache for the day Jesus takes us home, He has given me work to do here, and I am determined to persevere. Given enough time, these pressures will surely create in me a brilliant shining like a diamond that reveals His glory. 
Determine today to persevere through life's storms and pressures. Claim James 1:2-4:
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. 

Harder

One discipline that I try to incorporate into my days is listening to podcasts. Mark Driscoll referred to listening to podcasts as "redeeming the time." Those who spend part of their day in a commute are likely to benefit from listening to a solid, Bible believing preacher. I listen while doing meanile tasks like making dinner, cleaning and weeding the garden. Listening to Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill) finish his series on the book of Ephesians, "I Am Rewarded," spoke volumes to how we (even moms) are to work as if working for the Lord, not men (Ephesians 6:7). I am a mom, working for Jesus, taking care of His golden heads. Jesus is my Boss, He see, knows and rewards me.  The next sermon in that series, "I Am Victorious" teaches how the armor of God is available to His children and that we are victorious (Ephesians 6:10-20) in the battle against satan. Since we are at war with satan, life is not going to be easy: "The harder it gets, the closer you're getting to God's will." In general, I find this so true of life these last years.
A day or two later, I remembered that statement while brushing my teeth and dry erased it onto the mirror. (I love to leave notes like this to encourage the engineer and I while we both begin and end our days in front of the bathroom mirror.) Yet a few hours later, at whit's end with my golden heads, I read it again and the light bulb of application luminates. Training my girls in the ways they should go is hard! This summer's goals of teaching them to clean, wash laundry, cook, plan, garden, sew, build campfires, get along with others, manage money...the list is extensive, constant and taxing.  It's hard because satan doesn't want me to actively parent but teaching the golden heads is surely God's will.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Along with that, acquiring a teacher's heart, patience, relinquishing control of my "in order" home, is conforming me into the image of Christ.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18
So the job is hard but the benefit is two-fold. Praise be to God that I am both rewarded and victorious. In what circumstance do you find yourself in that's hard? Are you tempted to give up or will you choose to persevere knowing that you're moving closer to God's will?