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May 9, 2012

Lots of Good Things are Just More Things

Lots of Good Things are Just More Things

Lots of Good Things are Just More ThingsSo it has been a couple of days into my fast from social media, and just as I expected, God is using a highlighter, bold print and italics everywhere to make a statement to me.

Clarity is the nature of fasting.  If you have never before fasted, I challenge you to consider it. There is nothing like removing the things we rely upon and exchanging those experiences for reliance on the Lord to gain perspective–insight even–into what has been turning our wheels.

Thematic in purpose, the statements I am hearing at a heart-level from God all amount to the same point. For all the striving I have done in the past couple of years through various venues, the outcome is the same…it falls short of God’s best for me and my family.  It is not His heart for me.

They are all lots of GOOD things, sure.  But in effect, they are just MORE things that amount to NOTHING–nothing that will last.

Down the road, they are like tumbleweeds blowing across the field. Perhaps someone will spray paint it white for a snowman centerpiece on their dining room table. But they will never grasp what its original intent was in my hands nor will it carry on the same story. Not to say that it wasn’t good or beneficial.  It was!  But in the long run, it was ineffective and a distraction for me from my main purpose.

And what is my main purpose??  Ah now, that is a very good question–the BEST question even!  It is a question we all should ask ourselves…and take the time to listen for the answer. My main purpose is to be soft clay in God’s hands, ready to obey Him and willing to let Him shape and mold me for the path on which He has placed me.

What path?

The path is the one God has wrought–which I can choose or not choose at any time.

With whom and for whom?

Well first, I am His daughter. He knows me–through and through.  He loves me.  He is closer than my breath–no need for long distance. He thinks about me all the time.  He is constantly setting me up for success–not in the world’s eyes, no–but for the plans He has for me.  He makes a way in my desert.  He listens for my voice.  He loves to hear from me…and I talk with Him all the time. We are close, like that.

Then I am wife and best friend to my Chris. He loves me and makes me better than I am.  He causes me to laugh–all the time.  I only ever want to dream with him about our future. We are and have always (since we have known one another) been together in this journey with God, living before God. In tandem, we cycle through this race for the goal. We raise the bar for one another. We share words with our eyes all the time.  And we laugh at the same things, which no one else would get. We love each other deeply–in good times and in bad.  We are close, like that.

Then I am mother to four, wonderfully-made and diverse children. My main focus during these growing years for them is to keep my hand on the pulse of their hearts and to continually spur them on toward following God’s path for them. My Chris and I shape their hearts and hone their minds, so that they walk in the light of God’s best for them.  They will walk, as we do–so my job, too, is to keep honest before God and ask for His help in walking out some very difficult and also diverse trails. I share with them unconditional love.  I spend myself to teach them to love and serve by how I love and serve them. And I listen to them. I make time to be available to hear their hearts.

Everything and everyone that comes beyond these three points MUST align with the first three…must PROMOTE the first three.  With intention and purpose, I have choices to make about what makes up the rest. I cannot assume here that I have no choice.  I DO have a choice.  I cannot control the circumstances, no.  But I can control how and where I build–how and where I focus–how and where I steward every part of myself.

Because lots of good things are going on–opportunities have presented themselves, motives have come to light and goals, which may or may not support my main priority–I must choose among them.  So I have to ask myself, are these just MORE things or are they purposed for promoting my main agenda (those first three points)?

Along the same lines, I do believe we are to walk with God and do the next thing He brings.  The hardest part is determining if THIS is the next thing He has for me OR is this a distraction, which will diffuse my passion for the main things. How do we know?  Well, trial and error is not the best method here.  What I believe IS the best method can be found in James 1:5-8.  Ask God believingly for wisdom…

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Because rather than tumbleweeds, I want to forge some deep roots into the soil, which will develop a strong family tree that continually retrieves nutrients and bears not only MUCH fruit, but GOOD fruit–the lasting kind that will not blow away and be repurposed.

That, my  friends, is enough to keep me looking, walking and thriving — for it really does matter what I do and how I think and what I will be (not leaving those I love and care for in the hands of Que Sera Sera–what will be will be).  It matters for all eternity.

Choosing Best with Jesus’ Help,

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Purposefully Pausing

Autumn Wreath

Over the past couple of years, my time in the “foyer” of my own home has been unhurried and peaceful. After getting our MCs off to school, I had time to dig deep into the Word. I had time to sit at the feet of Jesus without feeling rushed. I could linger over Scripture and not see a million things I needed to wash, pick up, fold, organize or clean.

As of 13 weeks ago, those days are now long gone. Going back to work has altered my time in the foyer, and not for the better. These days, the foyer in my home is simply something I need to hurry up and get out of so I can be where I need to be on time. It is something I scurry the kids through to catch the bus. An area where I just make sure all the other stuff I need to do is not directly in the way, or at least to the side enough I can step over it to get out.

Coming in is not much better. Walking through the door I am bombarded with the facts that there are clothes to be washed and dishes to be done. In plain sight are the stack of paper work I need to go through and a pile of laundry to be folded. I see folders with homework that needs to be done and know that for these MCs, I am required to be right there with them every step of the way. Let me not forget my husband, who is convinced he needs to eat every night… and not just sandwiches.

My days of lingering over scripture have been few. The un-hurried pace I had before is gone. Some days, it is full on survival mode. If I can just make it to the weekend….If I can make it just until Thanksgiving… Summer….if I can just make it until summer.

Does any of this sound familiar? Does my routine seem to shadow yours? Good, then we can both know we are not alone.

One of my biggest frustrations has been the little voice in my head that keeps repaeting,

There has got to be a way you can do this better. You have got to figure out how to run this home more effeiciently.  You have got to get it together and soon.

See the problem?

All my scurrying has caused me to be focused on me. What do I need to do? How can I fix this? When will I ever have a system down pat? Answer is I won’t.

But Jesus can. If I will stop long enough to let Him. His fix may not look like what I thought. His efficicency may not be the June Cleaver model I hold to so strongly in my head. It will be better.

So here is my challenge to myself, and if you need to, I hope you will join me. In all my goings and doings, may I be purposful in stopping in the foyer to sit at Christ’s feet. To let Him prepare me for the day as I walk out and to let Him carry the burdens I picked up as I come home. If it means shutting the door to my room for just a few minutes, or locking myself in the bathroom for a quick respite (because honestly it is one of the few places I am alone), let me be deliberate in doing so. Though my days are not as carefree as they once were, the One who cares for me is still very much the same. Each day, may I allow the Holy Sprirt to remind me of this fact. May I pause to listen, may I pause to pray, and may I choose, in all my hustle and bustle, to stop in the foyer of God’s home and let Jesus guide my way.

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Deeper Meaning in Many Colors

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Do you sometimes find that reading the Bible is a little “black-and-white”.  That is because our Bibles are printed that way.  Well, O.K. some have some red letters in them in the New Testament, but the other some-odd percent is just black and white.

This can make it tough sometimes to see the full color of what the Bible has to offer.  If you are looking for a way to add some color to your daily Bible here is any easy way to do so.

First, get a new Bible.

When I first began this, I bought a new Bible that is bigger than my normal one.  I did this so the pages won’t have that familiar look to them to aid in my concentration.  You can of course use the one you are already using, but I found that starting fresh gave me an opportunity to read the Scriptures for the “first” time since all my notes, etc. were not there.

Second, get a pack of colored pencils.

I bought a set of 36 colors.  The lead needs to be relatively soft so it won’t tear the pages, but firm enough to not rub onto the other pages.  You’ll want to test them out on a page that you won’t mind getting torn if the pencil is too firm or smudged if too soft. 

Third, make a list and put it in your Bible of what colors mean what.

Feel free to use any color for any category you want and to add to it.  Here’s a list to get you started;

God                             Yellow

Warning                      Grey

Sin                               Black

Salvation                     Red

Work of God              Dark Green

Commands/                 Light Green

Christian Growth

Reason’s from God     Light Blue

            (because/since)

Confidence                 Orange-yellow

Encouragement           Aqua

Worship                       Dark blue

Grief/sorrow                Brown

Just because                orange

            i.e. it doesn’t fit the others but you want it highlighted

Trinity                         pink

Promise of God           Light purple

Faith                            Red-brown

Etc.

Fourth, go color!

Now you are ready to begin.  Start by having the colored pencils and the list by your side and within reach.  Sitting at a table or in a chair that has a large armrest helps.  This makes it easy to color without having to balance everything on your lap. 

Now, color over the word(s) and phrases that correspond to your list while reading. 

For example,  Genesis 1:1 is all dark green for the work of God. 

Genesis 2:3 is half dark green “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” and the other half, light blue “because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

Another example Genesis 16:9  I have highlighted in light green the words, “return,” and “submit” as they are commands from God to Hagar. 

Furthermore, every time God says, “I will” I have that in either aqua for encouragement or light purple for a promise, or sometimes both if I cannot decide.  i.e. Gen 2:18; 6:13; 7:4; 8:21, 12:1, 2, etc.

When I find things that talk about the character or person of God I use yellow as in Genesis 8:21 or in Psalm 18:2 “the Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer;” etc.

Sometimes, I use orange to color something to either stand out from the rest or because it doesn’t seem to fit the other categories.  For example, In Deuteronomy 11:22 I used orange to color the word “if” in an otherwise light green sentence, just to point out the condition in it.  Another example is in Judges, I used orange to write in the margins the years that they judged for. 

Still further, I sometimes use orange to highlight a text note to make it easy to come back to. 

I find this “color-coding” method to be helpful as it enables me to easily come back to specific scriptures and/or ideas, themes, etc.  This is because just by the color of a page (or set pages/book) it is easy to see what is going on.  This has helped me be both encouraged and challenged by scriptures in a new way.

By using colors, it also adds to my concentration of the passages as I am looking for key words and phrases then coloring them.  This helps cut down on distractions and encourages me to focus on each word without just “glossing over”.  This then helps me add deeper meaning to my reading, especially when I re-read the text.

It has also helped me to pray through scripture as the prayers of others are highlighted and I can use those or other scripture that are commands to help me see where I am falling short and to have compassion on others.

If you feel a bit funny using colored pencils, just invite your children to help you and make it a time of reading and deciding what colors should go where together.  What a great opportunity to open the scriptures, minister to your children, and be ministered to.

So I encourage you to get out there and color and see how God will enrich your Bible reading and devotional time together.

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Heart Prompt #19

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

In the hustle and bustle of getting the house decorated, the cookies baked, the presents wrapped, take some time each day to enjoy being still. Early morning by the light of the Christmas tree you worked hard to make look just so is a wonderful time to be still and ponder what it means that God came to earth in the person of Jesus to be Imannuel, God with us. As you see the lights on your tree, ask the Light of the World to shine in and through you as you go through your day.

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