Saturday, February 9, 2013

Thankful for you...

We must give thanks to God for you always, Christian brothers. It is the right thing to do because your faith is growing so much. Your love for each other is stronger all the time. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 NLV

The old maxim is that you are what you eat. So what happens when you feed someone a steady diet of criticism?

Studies have shown that children who receive criticism on a daily basis from those who are important to them lose their motivation to try new things. They become discouraged and defeated.
Likewise parents who focus on the good things their children do, encourage them to work harder to do the things that please their parents. They develop higher self esteem and aren't afraid to try new things.

Couples who practice mutual respect and develop a complimentary attitude toward each other have stronger marriages. No, it's not always easy - it does take work, but it is worth it.

MP900289346Sure there are times when we need to offer criticisms because of sin or problems in someone's life, but there are ways to phrase those criticisms constructively so that they become motivators instead of destroyers.

So, I wonder what our churches would look like if we worked harder at giving thanks for those we rub shoulders with instead of complaining and criticising them?

Here's a few suggestions to try this week:
  • Find a young person and speak to them. Ask them about school and offer to pray for them for an upcoming test or project. Youth and adults are a lot like oil and vinegar - they don't mix until shaken together.
  • Ask a single mom what she needs and offer to help or pray for her needs rather than complaining about her noisy children in church.
  • Pray for someone who is ill, make a card or visit them. Listen to their health-related complaints and offer smiles and encouragement.
Pray and ask God to show you creative ways to bless and encourage those around you before judging or criticising them.

Friday, February 8, 2013

In the waiting room

But they who wait upon the Lord will get new strength. They will rise up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weak. Isaiah 40:31 (NLV)

Bald Eagle in FlightI'm doing Grandma duty this week - hanging out with my daughter and her family until the new baby decides to make an appearance. Someone (AKA Grandma) needs to be here to stay with the 7 others when the time comes for mommy and daddy go to the hospital for the delivery.

But waiting for the new baby is a lot like watching a pot of water on the stove - you know it's going to boil eventually, but it just won't boil as long as you watch it. LOL!

It means that I don't have time for my usual morning routine of writing. It's hard to blog with little ones crawling on me at 7 AM. And of course, even though I'm so close to finishing my third novel, everything is on the back burner as long as there are little ones around.

But don't be fooled - I'm not complaining. The "wait" isn't bad at all since I love spending time with my grandkids. Today we're making paper conversation hearts and playing with Play Doh while the older ones are doing their home-school class work. Tomorrow? who know's - I'm sure we'll find some equally fun things to do.

No so when I'm waiting on the Lord for answers to prayer or guidance or healing, etc. I get impatient, frustrated and depressed,, the longer I have to wait. The difference is that it's fun to spend time with the grandkids, but not so fun to wait on the Lord for things to happen. Perhaps it's because when I ask the Lord for something, I'm in pain or needing an answer ASAP. Not so fun!

Yet it's during those times of waiting on him that my trust muscles are strengthened. I grow emotionally and spiritually. As I lean on him, I learn what it is to rely on his strength rather than my own. And I do survive - even thrive - when I thought I couldn't go another step or wait one more moment. In his time, the answer I seek is birthed in my life and I am better for the waiting time.

Lord, help me to embrace the waiting time as I learn to lean totally on you. Amen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bibles VS Zombies

Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 CEB

My grandchildren love to play video games, like most of the kids I know. When I stayed with them overnight a few weeks ago, they delighted in showing me their favorite game, "Plants VS Zombies." It was cute to watch, but I never thought of it as material to adapt into a Bible lesson. LOL!

In the game, zombies threaten to invade the home of the player to "eat his brains." The only thing standing between him and the invading Zombies are the plants in his yard. To play, the player has to strategically plant flowers and veggies to defend against the onslaught of the enemy.

FSE019Sunflowers and special glow-in-the-dark mushrooms provided sunlight energy (during the day and night) which allow the player to buy more plants.

Walnuts are defensive items that prevent the enemy from advancing while other offensive weapon plants can be purchased and planted. Those offensive "weapons" included several types of pea shooters, a fly trap type plant that eats zombies, various types of mushrooms and Autumn's favorite - a squash that plops down on the zombie and squashes him. There is even a cherry bomb that incinerates several at the same time.

Now I love to take things children are familiar with and make Bible lessons from them. I believe the lessons will stick in their minds and come back as a reminder each time they see those items.
As I sat down to prepare a lesson for youth church this past week about fighting temptation, there they were: a whole host of little temptation zombies threatening to invade our minds and "eat out brains."

So I created a table-top game to demonstrate how we can fight temptation. The Bible and prayer gives us the "energy" we need to strengthen our relationship with the Lord and fight back against the waves of temptations that are set to attack us - things like impure thoughts, time-stealers and heart attitudes that threaten to destroy our relationship with Christ every day.

Then we must put on and use our defensive and offensive weapons - the armor of God and the fruit of the spirit to prevent these mind and heart deadening "zombies" from getting through our defenses and taking over our minds. When we fail to get properly suited up or if we fail to use the offensive fruits like love and self-control, the enemy will get through and destroy our spiritual life.

While it may not be the most orthodox way to teach Bible truths, it works! I know whenever I see that silly game in the future, I will think of my version and be reminded that I need to be on guard against the temptations that come my way.

In the meantime, I challenge you to use God's word and prayer to strengthen yourself against those invading temptation zombies!

Father, guard our hearts and minds against the temptations of the enemy. Help us to be prepared and to fight back when temptation comes so we don't lose the battle for our minds. Amen.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Committed to the journey

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 NLT

Several nights ago, I laughingly told my husband, "I just can't stop writing - I'm in the middle of the
Red Sea."
True enough, I was crafting a scene where the Israelites were crossing the Red Sea. The emotions ran high among the crowd of people in the scene and my writer's adrenalin was pumping too.

I always used to think that the Israelites marched across the dry ground in an orderly fashion with drilled precision, almost like a great army. But as I really wondered and prayed about it, a much different picture emerged.

The people had just escaped their slavery in Egypt. But they still were acting and thinking as slaves. They followed Moses hoping for a better life and because the God of Israel was "winning" at this point. They were on an emotional high.

But the minute they were backed into a corner with their enemies on one side and the Red Sea on the other, many of them thought their God had suddenly turned on them too, just like he had come against the Egyptians with the 10 plagues.

A lack of trust is characteristic of those who have been severely wounded by abuse or slavery. So when the pathway through the sea opened up, I imagine many of them passed through between the walls of water in a BIG hurry, still afraid and not fully trusting their God to keep the water bottled up on either side of them. They probably looked back often to be sure God kept his cloud between them and the Egyptians.

After 4oo plus years of slavery, they didn't really KNOW their God deeply and intimately.True, they saw his acts - how he sent the plagues against their enemies, and even how he opened up the sea to make a way of escape. But their internal wounds prevented them from really knowing, trusting and loving him.

God had to provide their basic daily needs of food and water, preserve their clothes and tents, and constantly protect them from their enemies - just like a loving parent cares for a newborn - before their trust began to be restored.

It would take 40 years of tramping around in the wilderness for them to begin to know him and love him with every fiber of their being as Moses commands them here in Deuteronomy. 
Most of us have been hurt by death of a loved one, life events or people to some degree. It takes a lifetime to heal and restore the childlike trust necessary to love God with all our hearts.

God only asks that we commit to the process of healing and growing so we can become strong in our faith, our trust and knowledge of him. As we remain open to him, he will work in our lives, healing the hurts ad fears and teaching us to know him fully and deeply. We will learn to know his ways like Moses did, and not merely see the things he does.

Father, help me keep my heart open to you so that I might learn to really know you and love you with all my heart, soul and mind. Amen.