How blessed we are to have friends who lift us up, who speak truth to us, who listen, give advice, encouragement and their constant prayers. This is richness; this is true treasure to have such wonderful women in your life.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Two-Hearted" Faith

My Sweet Friends,

I should have learned this lesson by now:  If you ask God a question such as, "Am I REALLY like that?" or "Is this in me?" or "Do I have a problem with being 'two-hearted'?" He is going to answer. PERIOD.  He LOVES to answer questions like these because He knows there, in that vulnerable moment, is opportunity for growth.  It has taken Him as little as 30 seconds (literally I might add) or sometimes days, but He is so good...He ALWAYS answers one sentence prayers such as these.

Spending time with James 1: 5-8 this week was eye-opening.  I especially LOVE verse five:  "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."  The "gives generously without finding fault" is underlined in my Bible...I like that part.  Every parent I know hangs onto this verse with a tenacity that is equaled only by the stubborn love they have for their child.  BUT...and there are many times that very word comes after a promise like this..."But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."  This part is not underlined in my Bible. 

The beauty of doing a study on an entire book in the Bible is that you see and study it ALL.  Even our not so favorite parts.  This week as I looked over this very well known verse, I thought of the many times I have begged God for His wisdom, specifically in the areas of being a wife and a mother, sometimes as a friend and even a daughter.  My sister, Joni, says that many times a mother finds herself breathing in a lot of carpet fiber.  Face planting seems to be a natural position to living life as a Christian wife and mother on this planet.  Here's my problem:  In the midst of a situation where I have need for wisdom, I BELIEVE...because I need to...I have no where else to go.  God is my sole resource in these circumstances.  But as I get up off my knees, my faith will ebb and flow with what I see and what I hear.  I believe He is working because I see faith soars!  I am devastated and disappointed when it looks as if my prayers are not being answered, especially in the way I envision faith sinks like a rock!

So when I asked the question this week, "Do I have a problem with being 'two-hearted' in my faith, Lord?"  Within the hour He showed me.  Have you noticed that He shows us our hearts when we least expect and in ways we are just not prepared for?  This, my dear friends, is the really cool grew my faith when He showed me how "wave tossed" it really was in this situation!  Those verses I had not given much attention to because of their "negative" connotation were the very ones He used to BUILD my faith! 

I don't want to have a faith that is plagued by doubts, soaring and diving depending on what is happening around me.  This gives mere humans and certainly our enemy power over MY faith.  In the margin of my Bible is scratched a little note:  "Focus your faith on God, not on getting what you ask for."  Someone must have given me that bit of wisdom once and it warranted a place in the margin.  That thought realigns my faith in the right direction:  God and God alone.  The truth is I want God's provision in my life.  Not just for my sake, but for those who I am praying for even more.  And I certainly don't want to be "unstable in all my ways."   I am so grateful He listens to quietly whispered prayers even if and especially when the answers pierce the heart with change.

Eight verses into James and already God is working to "grow us up" more in Him so that we can be more effective in our lives as Christ following women.  I am so excited!  I can't even imagine what more is in store for us in the weeks ahead!!!   

Love to you....


Friday, January 20, 2012

Life is a Competition...or is it?

When Peter and I were first married, we lived in South Dakota DURING THE WINTER!  Anyone who has been to South Dakota will tell you it is a beautiful, gorgeously colorful state during the summer and fall but in the winter it is pure white.  Back in the 70s on my uncle's ranch, there was not much to do on those snowed-in evenings in our little bunkhouse but play Scrabble...the only game we owned at the time.  I'm just going to tell you all up front...I was pretty stinkin' good at Scrabble:).  But one infamous night I wasn't.  Peter got one of those magical moments when the triple word square lines up with a triple letter square and he put a z on that puppy, added an s to another word to create two and tripled the whole mess up!  As he added all his points up with a REALLY  OVERLY GLEEFUL ATTITUDE, I fumed.  And then it happened.  Peter, to this day, says this moment is "freeze framed" in his mind (wonderful...just great).  In my anger, I slammed the board together and tiles flew everywhere!  And to be extra dramatic, I threw the board on the bed and ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind me...(as if he would want to be near me after that).

I tell you this lovely little scene from our early married life to illustrate the point that for as long as I can remember, I was a competitive person.  As a child in a large family, I competed for food (who got the biggest of anything), I competed for space on the double bed I shared with my sister, I competed for friends, for boyfriends, in cheerleading (I know, some of you are gagging right now), and in all the sports in PE.  

In my young was one, long competition...that you had to win.  Then Jesus came into my life and slowly changed that view.  I say "slowly" because for so long I didn't even recognize some of my competitiveness as something wrong, let alone sin.   I am not one of those who believe there should be no competion in the world...that no one should get the trophy or an award for excellence.  But in all things, there is the healthy and God honoring that contrasts clearly with the unhealthy and self-serving.  

All this came to mind with a question one of the girls e-mailed me about this week's lesson.  She wondered what she was supposed to put in those blanks on page 30: "God, who is at work in the ministry of ____________ as a servant to _____________, is also at work in my ministry to _________________."  I really had to ponder this one too.  At first I thought of it in terms of literal ministry in the church such as "God who is at work in the ministry of Nancy as a servant to the ladies in the morning Bible study is also at work with Diane to the ladies in the evening Bible study."  But I think there is even more to it than ministry within the church.  Maybe it is also about everyday life.  Maybe this statement could be read "God who is at work in my ministry to my family, to my husband, in my home, is also at work with Joni, to her family, her husband and her home."  

Being imprisoned by competitiveness in the area of comparing ourselves as wives, mothers and homemakers can be stifling to our own growth and to the growth of fruitful relationships.  It took me awhile to come to the realization that my ministry in my own family is going to look different than other mothers in theirs.  Different people are involved, different temperaments, personalities, giftings, and a unique mixture of all in each family.  No family will look like mine so it is impossible to make a comparison.  The problem comes in when we look at another family or woman and think to ourselves "THAT  is what  'great' looks like."  We usually do one of a few things or maybe even all.  1.  We feel like we don't measure up...that we are a failure,  2. We try to be "just like" that perfect someone and/or  3.  We start to tear down the other person, many times only in our minds, so that we can feel better about ourselves.  

What this Scripture in Galatians, and others like it, say to me is I am to work in my set of circumstances to the glory of God and you in yours and together it will be a blessing not only to God, but to all of those around us as well.

One day a dear friend of mine came to my home and asked if she could help in organizing my kitchen.  She was a natural at organization, especially in the area of the home, and I decidedly was not.  She had been in my home enough to know that my disorganization was driving me crazy and in her LOVE for me, she came to help.  I knew there wasn't an ounce of pride in her as she labored with me that day explaining why she was doing what she was doing, so I could learn from her.  She simply wanted to help her friend who was drowning and reach out a hand, and I truly appreciated it. 

There is nothing so powerful in defeating unhealthy competition and comparison as a compassionate, gifted friend who is FOR you.  It kills all those bad feelings in an instant.  In God's Word to us, He has said that He has given gifts to us all for the building up of the body.  Satan would love to draw our attention to comparing those gifts, instead of using them for the benefit of each other and to the glory of the One who has saved and is changing us.

Every time I think I have this unhealthy competitive attitude kicked, He, in His sweet love for me, shows me another driving, or even doing Zumba Fitness 2:)  So this battle is ongoing in me, but I have experienced victory...I DO NOT  throw Scrabble boards around anymore!  

Love to you...


Monday, January 16, 2012

When Being "Right" Can Be Really, Really Wrong

  "...he [Satan] enlists blame and accusation as his co-conspirators, and under his subtle influence the people of God often turn on one another rather than rally in unity against our REAL enemy."(emphasis mine)  This thought has had me pondering since I read it in Bible study this week.  Bizarrely, it hit me square in the face recently as I simply went looking for a picture of the Bible study I am currently in to "pin" on Pinterest.  I inadvertently happened upon a blog devoted to "critiquing" Beth Moore.  Let me tell you, it got pretty ugly.  Her main sins were:  she taught men, she was too emotional, and she was a "premillenialist" (She believes in a pre-trib rapture).  She was called "false teacher" over and over.  When a woman had the courage to write in her defense and give her testimony of a changed life because of Beth Moore's ministry, she was slammed for not giving the credit to Jesus.  I am certain if Jesus was being attacked, this woman would have come to His defense even more courageously, but He wasn't the subject of this blog...NOT AT ALL.  

As I read this blog, my thoughts went to pastor David Parker's recent teaching on unity.  David said, "God is gifting and growing us in Christ so that we might mature together and reach 'unity in the faith' as we follow Him.  Being united in the faith means that we occupy substantial common ground together in our understanding of faith's essential content, character and conduct," and we accept other believers "without passing judgement on disputable matters."  

I remember years ago someone asked Brent Rue, the pastor of  the Desert Vineyard in those days, if he was "pre-trib or post-trib."  He smiled at them and said, "It really doesn't matter what I believe or anyone believes...its going to happen when God says and that's that."  A disputable matter...why waste time on it?

In David's teaching, he emphasized the "substantial common ground" we all have as Christ's followers.  There is "essential content" in our faith in Jesus we all is  non-negotiable and constant. There is "essential character" we all should have as expressed in Galatians 5:22.  And there is "essential conduct" we all should be showing as we live out our lives in worshipping, serving, giving and in relationship to others.

What if we did just that?  

What if we concentrated on the "substantial common ground"  we have with each other in our faith in Jesus as Savior instead of all the "disputable matters" that really aren't worth the disunity and hurt they cause to the person and the church?

What if we all practiced the character God has said should be in someone filled with His Spirit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?  

What if our everyday conduct was ruled by the Spirit in us, expressed in love through our faith in Jesus to all we came in contact with?

Everything would change...everything.

That is exactly what happened in the early church.  They grew and matured in their relationship with Jesus and in turn grew in unity with other believers.  They let the disputable matters go (and you know they had different opinions on matters in the church) and continually refocused the attention of all back to the Jesus.

We have to be so watchful for the subtlety of Satan as he works to distract us from what is valuable in this one life we have to live.  Being "right" is a desire we all have...practically from the womb.  I KNOW I do and I have to push that monster down in me all the time.  Isn't it unnerving that we have an enemy who wants us to be "right" and to defend that "rightness" until we have offended, hurt and sometimes even destroyed the faith of a brother or sister in Christ.  Here's the irony of this situation:  Our fight for what is right can lead to something destructively wrong in what truly matters in life.  

David asked the question:  "When people see you, do they see a person who lives out their faith expressed through love?  joy? peace? patience? kindness?  goodness?  faithfulness?  gentleness?  self-control?"  These are what we should be growing in day by day, over the months and years as we follow our precious Savior.  Focus on these and unity can't help but become a reality in our lives and our relationships.  Then we will stand firm in the indisputable, essential areas of our faith, but we will do it with a thought toward peace, joy in the truth (not in being "right"), in patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness, being faithful to the truth but having the self-control to listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom in the expression of it.  

Whenever I am at the bridal shower of a new young bride to be and one of the shower activities is to give some "words of wisdom" to the bride, I always write the same sentiment..."Let the little things go."  Some of the biggest most horrendous arguments in my marriage to Peter  have been over some really ridiculous things.  One especially huge fight was over whether or not the insurance salesman came over on a Wednesday night or a Thursday night the prior week.  Peter and I slept separately that night and practiced some pretty amazing "silent treatment" for a few days.  (Well, amazing that I could do it, not so much an accomplishment for Peter, but when I was "right," I could do the impossible to prove it!)  Another "memorable" fight was over who had the most clothes and why.  Our daughter, Kirsti, is the one who broke up that argument with one simple statement:  "I can't believe my parents are arguing over who has the most clothes."  In that moment both Peter and I realized who was right...Kirsti.  We were being pretty silly and causing a lousy feeling to pervade the entire family.  Much like the faultfinding Christian brothers and sisters do to each other and the Church.  

Here's an indisputable truth.  Jesus said,  "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."  (Matthew 5:9)   Our follow Jesus, love others, live our lives so our love of God is obvious and to bring peace, as best as we can.

Love to you this week, my friends!


Monday, January 9, 2012

James is Coming!!!!

Hello my sweet friends!

Tomorrow is the day our new Bible study begins!   We are starting off 2012 with Beth Moore's new study on James called "Mercy Triumphs."  James has always interested me, not only for the content, which in itself is life challenging and life changing, but also the fact that the author of this book is the biological half brother of Jesus.  This man who did not follow his brother while Jesus lived, became a pillar of the New Testament church and died a martyr.  Talk about change!

I am also looking forward to sharing with you on this blog as we go on this new adventure together.  It seems to me, as I look back, that all the Bible studies I have done have the very real element of adventure.  Because of this, I have a real excitement and anticipation to see what lies ahead in pages of James.  I hope you will join me and feel free to add your thoughts and even questions on the blog.  Like the blog says:  Together...we are one wise woman:)

I love growing in wisdom with you, dear sisters!  Meet you in the pages of James!

Love to you...


PS  Here is a promotional video for "Mercy Triumphs"