Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Least of These

To the casual observer, things look just peachy. I laugh out loud and smile often. But if you look long enough and closely enough, you'll see the tears just behind my eyelids. The tears I'm trying valiantly to hold back. But when I'm all alone they come. They come in the middle of the night and awaken me. They come because I know that very soon I'll be saying goodbye to another little one. And Oh Dear Lord it hurts! I know that being a foster parent means that I'll say goodbye to many children. I know they are not mine to keep. But I also know that I can do no less than to love them completely while they are with me, and that means my heart breaks completely when they go. I am so very happy for them, that they find forever families! I pray for them often and for their families, both past and present. But still I hurt. I cry out to God to please give me strength. To please take the hurt away. And then I remember why I do it.

I've been there. Right where they are. I've been in the presence of a parent that was mentally unstable. I've been the child that hid from an abusive step-parent. I've been the child witnessing violence. I've been the little girl violated. I've been the child grown up too fast. I've been the one no one seemed to want. I've been the runaway. And yet, I've also been the one that was shown kindness, and the love of Jesus, by strangers. Those that shouldn't have cared, but did. I've been there, and so I do this. Because to whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48) I have been given much in this life, not the least of which is forgiveness for rejecting the One that only ever loved me, for way too long.

As I spend seemingly each waking moment asking for God to give me strength, crying sometimes, and holding it in during others, I realize that God has ALWAYS been right there by my side, and that He always gives me strength for the tasks that He has given me. (Phil 4:13) He has equipped me and He stands by me. He has shown me in His Word that this is what those that love Him do. (James 1:27) We care for the least of these. Whether temporarily or permanently, it matters not. So, while some seem to think I'm some kind of superwoman for doing this, let me be clear. I am not. I only do this in God's strength.  On my own, I couldn't do it. I would crumble. 

Today, during one of my difficult moments, as I cried out to God for strength, a couple songs came on... and interestingly enough, these same songs are the ones that seem to play each time I start to feel down. Because I just really like these songs, especially in my situation, I thought I'd share them with you. And if ever you feel like maybe you could show the love of Jesus to one of the least of these, let  me know and I'd be happy to share with you how you could get started. Because, really when it comes right down to it, though there is pain, there is so much more joy! And like my husband says: I'll keep my eye on the eternal prize and "just think of the reward' to come. :) Blessings my friends! And thanks for reading.



Friday, March 8, 2013

To Blog... or Not to Blog.

I've been thinking about blogging again, because I just don't have anywhere near enough things going on in my life. (Yes, that was sarcasm... I know. It's not becoming. But it's me, more often than not. You'll get used to it. Or a miracle will happen and I'll actually stop being sarcastic.) I've thrown around a few ideas about what I would blog about in my oh so ample spare time, and I actually have MANY ideas- which of course, is why I even think I want to blog again. I could write about my 30 things in 30 days project- known on some other blogs as the William Morris project. I could write about the interesting struggles and insights I learn while being a foster parent. But then again, I'd probably violate some privacy issue there, and I wouldn't want to do that. I could always find something about homeschooling to write about. Or homemaking. Or meal planning and batch cooking like some of my other favorite bloggers. Or running a theater group. Or being a real food foodie like my friend Amy. Or juicing. Or my favorite: random biblical applications that I think up, like one of my old blogs. In short, so many things I could write about if I only found the time. Maybe I'll invest in the time. I'm not sure I'm a great writer. I tend to write in stream of consciousness, but I enjoy it nonetheless. And it's so much easier than trying to write it in a journal. So here goes. I'm going to start by blogging tonight. And it may or may not be one of the last things you read from me. ;) Today, you're just going to get my 30 things in 30 days list. AKA The William Morris project. It's ostensibly called that because of a quote by William Morris (go figure right?) that says
"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
I've gotten rid of a lot of junk because of this quote in the last few years. In fact, after I started it, I got called a minimalist. (Not a bad thing, but certainly not something I ever expected.) But, unfortunately, my house doesn't stay organized and I tend to start hoarding other things after I get rid of a different set of things. So here is my list. (Disclaimer: I may or may not get everything on this list done in the 30 days or ever. But it is my list. It's a goal. Not a promise. And I actually already started before this blog post. Which is why some things are already crossed out. Oh, and I don't actually have 30 things on my list yet, either....that may or may not change.)

  1. Purge and organize junk drawers
  2. Purge and organize Robert's clothes and toys 
  3. Clean and purge dresser drawers, especially sock drawer
  4. Purge closet of clothes I don't wear. Organize remaining clothes
  5. Clean all carpets
  6. Finish recovering kitchen chairs
  7. Paint main kitchen/ living room wall
  8. Sand and refinish dining table
  9. Organize and purge personal recipe book
  10. Organize favorite recipes.
  11. Make recipe book for daughters
  12. Start scrapbook of foster children
  13. Build rail shelving in girls room for books
  14. Organize extra clothing for foster children
  15. Clean computer desk area
  16. Update all homeschool records
  17. Organize and clean garage
  18. Trim rosebushes
  19. Clean all the blinds (since they don't actually get done weekly like they're supposed to)
  20. Clean windows
  21. Clean rain gutters (if there's a dry weekend sometime this month)
  22. Purge and organize school supplies. 
  23. Have a yard sale
  24. (See, I told you I didn't have 30 things yet.)
Stay tuned for my next installment of writing. Or don't. Because who knows... it may never come. :D Blessings!

Agape: It's Unconditional Love

Are you a Pharisee? Do you ever find yourself in the company of Pharisees? Usually well meaning believers (and sometimes even unbelievers) that believe that in order for God to love us and them, we must believe AND be perfectly good- obeying all His commands and commandments? People that believe that if we sin or slip up, that He won't love us anymore? Let me be perfectly clear: That is a lie from the pit of hell! And don't you believe it for one second! God's love is unconditional. Let me repeat that: UNCONDITIONAL. He loves the saint, the sinner, the believer and the unbeliever all the same! There is NOTHING you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. He even loved Judas- the one He knew would betray Him. He even loves me-- the one He knew would turn from Him time and again. He even loves you--no matter what you've done or will do.

God's love means that He WILL discipline us though. True love requires this. God will use discipline to call us to Himself. He will use discipline to guide us back into His will when we go astray. God will use discipline, ultimately, in letting one pay the consequences of rejecting His love.  Unconditional love means letting us choose whether or not we will love Him in return. It also means receiving the blessings of belief in Him.Everyone knows John 3:16 but there's more to be found in John 3:18... just two verses later.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life....Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (emphasis mine)
God is not human and His ways are not our ways. In fact, He is so different from the natural human that His Word says He is beyond understanding. His love is not like ours. We can only hope to try to love as He loves. We can only come close when He is Lord of our lives. Now that we know there's nothing we can do to earn His love, why then should we even bother trying to be holy? Why does it even matter if we sin? Why should we care? We should care because our love for Him should be reflected in how we act, what we say, how we think and in how others see us. We are to be the earthly representation of God to those around us. If you love God, you will WANT to please Him. You will NOT be perfect at it. In fact, sometimes you may not even be good at it. The more you look to God, the more you ask Him for wisdom and to reveal His plan for your life, the more you WILL please Him. We need to make an effort towards godliness.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.8 For if these qualitiest are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-9 (emphasis mine)
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, do you remember what He said? Mark 12:30-31 records it this way:
 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Loving your neighbor as yourself means loving them no matter where they are on the spectrum of belief. Love them no matter what. No condition. Knowing that there is no condition to God's love for you. God will discipline those HE sees fit to discipline. God will call those that He will call. God will be Lord to those He will be Lord to. As believers, we are commanded to love. That is how we will show we love the Lord.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Guilty As Charged

I have made some colossally BAD choices in my life. And by colossal I mean HUGE, GIGANTIC, MOUNTAIN- SIZED, BAD choices. Choices that not only effected myself, but those around me as well. Choices that hurt and had the potential to hurt. I have, mercifully, been spared the consequences for most of my bad choices. But, there are others that effect me even today. Some of them years after the fact. That is the price of sin. Effects that are long lasting even to the 3rd and 4th generation.

Most of the time, I am at peace knowing that I have been forgiven by the only One who has the power to forgive and redeem even me. But there are other times, when I am in the midst of "paying the consequences" that I am reminded of the cause. And I begin to accuse myself, to let the accuser accuse me, and to live in guilt. I let myself forget that guilt is NOT a burden the Lord wants me to bear. He has taken all my guilt upon Himself. Yes, there are still prices to pay for my disobedience, for my unbelief, and for my faithlessness, but continued guilt is NOT one of them.

There are many stories in the Bible about people that made bad choices. Some of them even colossally bad. :) Because I'm a woman, I tend to relate more to the stories about women. There is a story in John, of a woman that made the really bad choice of committing adultery. She was brought before Jesus, accused and condemned by those around her (and I'm sure by the devil as well.) The Pharisees expected Jesus to condemn her also. It was the law after all. However, Jesus does something else. He tells those that accused her to look at themselves, and judge whether or not they were without sin. But the thing that REALLY touches me is after they have all gone away.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." John 8:10-11 NKJV
You see, though the Lord CAN judge and condemn, and has EVERY RIGHT to, when we ask for forgiveness and are truly repentant, Jesus covers our sin, takes our guilt upon Himself and says "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." It doesn't matter what the sin was. Once we are forgiven, that's it. It's done. Yes, there may still be consequences. That is the price of living in a fallen world. But you are no longer "guilty" to Him. You are now sinless because the blood of Christ covers you. God sees us as He sees His Son. Do not allow heaviness of guilt and regrets wear you down and effect your joy. Go in peace and joy and "sin no more." God is not a god of accusations. And He WILL cast down the one that would accuse you. His Word says so in Revelation 12:10
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.
Your job now is to BELIEVE that what His Word says is true, and that you are no longer condemned and accused before God. When you sin (and you will. As will I.) ask for forgiveness, repent and don't do it again. None of us is fully perfected yet. But we will be, if Jesus is our Lord and Savior.*

*Disclaimer: I realize there are some that may think I am saying that we can decide to sin and then just ask for forgiveness and all will be well. But let me be clear: the forgiveness of God does not mean we can go about willfully sinning, thinking that we can do whatever we want, and we will be forgiven. If you have any question about that see Hebrews 10:26.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cleaning Out the Hidden Places

Today, my baby boy wanted to look out the front window at the street outside. So I opened the blinds so that he could. Then as I looked closely, I realized the tracks of the window were quite dirty, as were the blinds. Now, I keep a fairly tidy home- especially when you consider that I have five children. However, I don't always keep up on the areas that stay hidden from view, or that don't need to be done daily or weekly. So, I had no idea the state of my blinds and window tracks. I'm sure I'm not the only one that forgets to look at these things, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it. However, as I began cleaning these (I could NOT leave them like that) I was struck with a parallel for my spiritual life. I thought I would share with you, with the prayer that it might be of some help or use to you as well.
 
As I was cleaning, it became clear to me that by ignoring these seemingly inconsequential tasks, I had created a task much too big to be completed in one day, and maybe even too big to do by myself. I was going to need some help. This is much the way we are before we begin to rely on God to change us. Now I'm not saying we can't strive to better ourselves and our behavior, but apart from God we cannot be good enough. We can never be clean enough on our own merits.
As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;" Romans 3:10
Not only is this the case before we begin to rely on God and call Christ our Savior and Lord, but it is also true after we claim the promise of the cross. Many times, we go about our daily lives, and we let the "little" things in our spiritual lives get ignored. We let our prayer time become less and less; we read our Bible only once a day, if at all; and we isolate ourselves from fellowship with other believers. These are just a few ways that I have noticed that I have ignored my spiritual life on occasion. I'd like to pretend that I'm always on top of it; but like the state of my house, it's only clean if you don't look too closely. But unlike the state of my house, I always need the help of the Lord to clean it up my spiritual state. He continues to change me day by day, but only as long as I let Him do it. I need not feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done in me. God will do it. But I do need to remain ever vigilant and aware of when I begin to drift away. If I do not remain aware, there will always be consequences and a much bigger mess to clean. I'd much rather clean a small mess than a big one, wouldn't you?
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Today I pray for vigilance. Amen!