Saturday, July 28, 2007

Love thy Enemies

I know we often hear the old adage to "love our enemies," but this often quoted saying is a Biblical command we dare not dismiss. This week I was taking account of areas in which I have or haven't seen growth in my Christian walk. Like most people, I tend to focus intently in one area, much to the detriment of other areas. For example, I find great energy and passion for ministry at church and the encouragement of others. However, I put all my energy into this, forgetting to gauge my thankfulness in all situations, to check the holiness of all my habits and to double and triple check my attitude and perspective.
The habit of loving those who hurt and persecute me is not my favorite practice. You wouldn't believe some of the elaborate thoughts of retaliation and self-righteousness I can harbor. It's easier to steam and vent than to swallow my pride, remember my own vices and freely dole out forgiveness. I can tell you all the BIG injustices in my life more quickly than I can tell you all the times someone stood up for me in undeserved love and servitude. That is sad. James 4:12 tells us,
"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy."

Some of you might be saying, "You have no idea what so and so did to me." Just remember what we did to our loving Savior when He was crucified. There is no comparison. We required His painful death due to our self-seeking hearts and ugly, selfish sin. Remember that forgiving someone does not excuse a behavior as right when it was wrong, and it does not always mean there will not be a consequence. Forgiving and LOVING enemies is handing you hurt to God, not harboring ill feelings in your heart toward the person that SINNED against you, finding joy in your circumstances and loving the offender through the knowledge that we are all guilty without God's loving grace, mercy and forgiveness. God is the judge, and He will avenge you in His timing and with His justice. Have you ever been severely hurt by someone you trusted or loved? Perhaps someone you barely knew persecuted you? Let go of the bitterness today. Remember I John 4:7-8, 11-12,
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone
who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not loves does
not know God, because God is love. . . Dear friends, since God so loved us, we
also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love
one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Busy Bees

Carter is snoozing away, so I am taking the time to update my blog. We have had a busy week! After reminiscing about the lazy days of summer, I decided to make life more complicated and hectic. Swim lessons began this week and have been fun. I am amazed at what Carter is willing to do and not remotely interested in doing. He loves to blow bubbles in the water and jump off the side of the pool. However, if I even attempt to float him on his back or have him kick while he is tummy down in water, he protests with splashing, screaming and biting to save his dear little life. I never realized floating on your back was more dangerous than jumping into a pool and submerging yourself under water. I'm learning.
We have also had park and beach days this week, along with an obligation almost every night. It has all been fun, and Carter is sleeping well, despite his four incisor teeth all coming in at once.
Carter has recently entered a program for television addiction. Though we allow only Sesame Street in the morning and an occasional cartoon if mommy needs to shower, Carter has nicknamed the TV "baby" and calls for it lovingly throughout the day. The usual distraction and change of focus of playing ball outside is great, but the recent Floridian weather has dampened my enthusiasm. If it came down to a choice between the TV and momma, I wouldn't want to see the results.
Carter also informs us whenever we drive by any house with a basketball hoop or anything that resembles a basketball hoop. His favorite word is "baketball"--his pronunciation--,so I hear it many times throughout the day. I never realized so many homes have hoops in their frontyards. Of course, we bought him a toddler appropriate basketball hoop, and he loves to put any ball that doesn't fit into the net. He then points and says, "baketball" until mommy removes the too large ball from the offending hoop. It's all worth it when he smiles and shows his excitement with a dance--really one foot pounding on the floor like a country hoe dance.
I hope all of you are having a fantastic summer too! The weeks are flying, and August is just a few days away. I have seen Back to School sales already--sorry, dear teacher friends. Though I want to cling to these wonderful days with Carter exploring the world, I'm just as curious about what he'll find interesting tomorrow. For now, here's to basketball, swimming lessons, and Sesame Street.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Summertime Traditions

I have to say that, frankly, I enjoy every season. Fall seems to always be my favorite, but there are benefits to each, whether it brings blooming flowers and ripe fruit, Christmas lights and comfy sweaters, or flip flops and the smell of Coppertone. We are in the midst of summer, and Ryan and I have enjoyed introducing Carter to some of the finer points of this warm season. We took our traditional vacation, this year relaxing lakeside in Whitefish, Montana for a little over a week. In Montana, we did national park hikes, went boating, and took Carter on a waverunner, sandwiched between the two of us. Carter was less than enthusiastic about his lifejacket, which transformed him into a picture of the little brother from A Christmas Story when he is all suited up for the snow. As of now, Carter has little or no neck, and he was only able to move his head in the lifejacket by slowly turning his whole torso Frankenstein style. His whines of protesting the life jacket quickly ended when the boat zoomed on the water or the waverunner started to go. He loved the speed and, like any boy, found that adventure is a wonderful thing. We watched fireworks for the Fourth which, alas, Carter missed. Since it stays deliciously light and sunny late in the north, we didn't start fireworks until 10:30. Carter was dreaming of boats and waverunners by then.

Today, Carter got to go to Lake Mission Viejo with Ryan and I. There was no limit to his enthusiasm about the sand, lake and playground all being within yards of one another. He ran back and forth until his poor, tired feet were on strike.

Carter has discovered the joys of fresh fruit and ice cream this summer. He waddles over and opens his mouth like a baby bird if mama is enjoying a treat. It is a magnificent weight management plan for me.

Swimming lessons start Monday, and I'm a little anxious that Carter will think it's some new form of discipline or torture. He despises any kind of water near his face, so I imagine he'll hate opening his eyes under water as much as his mommy did. It took a number of summers of lessons and private instructors to solve the issue for me. I did find out later that I was allergic to chlorine and my eye burning wasn't a normal response. Ah, well.

We've also gone to the harbor and baby beach, numerous parks, the zoo, the pool at nana's house, and Balboa/Newport. It will be fun to continue summer traditions with Carter as he gets older. Although, I'm getting ahead of myself, and I have already started dreaming of dipping apples in caramel and doing a car tour of Christmas lights with hot cocoa in hand. Do you have fun summer traditions you want to share? I'd love some fun ideas from my friends! For now, thank the Heavenly Father for the gift of seasons, the fun days with friends and family, and the wonderful sensation of a cool, dripping ice cream cone on a summer day!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Little Children

After nine years of teaching elementary school and one and a half years of being Carter's mommy, I have seen some common behaviors among children. They are ALL wired to serve themselves. No person has to teach them to whine, gripe, complain, display anger, lie, argue, or put others after themselves. This is an innate talent, for, as Romans 3:23 tells us,
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified
freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Right now I am trying to teach Carter the simple habits of saying "please" and "thank you." We are trying to replace whining with "nice words" like "please." Since Carter is only 15 and 1/2 months old, this often sounds like "eessss" for please and "dank ew" for thank you. I work on the obedience of his little heart by telling him about his need to obey momma because it is God's will for him to do so. When he doesn't obey, he has sinned against me and God. Of course, he doesn't quite grasp this, but he is old enough to know he has sinned. Something went wrong, and he feels naughty. This doesn't curb all bad behavior, however. In fact, Carter has developed both a strong will and an extreme temper. When he is kept from getting his way, he curls his lip, shakes his little fists and sometimes even throws something or hits the wall. I certainly have my work cut out for me, but, as a human, I sympathize with his struggles of sin and know that he has to become a follower of God to be taught by the Holy Spirit to deny himself for God and others.
This takes me back to my first point. Early on in teaching, I often would ponder how silly and self destructive kids' behavior can be. I am trying to do what is best for them, and they would make it harder. If they would just stop being lazy, obey the rules, work hard on their schoolwork and treat others with love, the year would be a breeze. Imagine what God could think of us. We have 20, 30, 50, 60, 70 or more years to learn the to obey His will, and we still act silly, self-destructive and sinful. Imagine the patience He must have to lovingly repeat a "divine spanking" to his little child at age 73! Of course, I pray we all are being sanctified to the point of needing fewer and fewer of those reprimands, but, while we are encased in this flesh, we will always struggle. Next time you are in the place of disciplining a little child, remember how immature and ridiculous our own behavior must appear to a perfect, holy, all knowing God. Take time to repent and think about the grace and mercy God has bestowed upon His followers. Thank you, Abba!
Hebrews 12:7-11 "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as
sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not
disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate
children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who
disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we
submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us
for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good,
that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the
time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of
righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

For Such a Time as This

I was listening to a pastor on the radio this morning and was hearing about the story of Esther again. The very famous verse of Esther 4:14 says,"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Of course, Esther does believe she has been made queen in order to save the Jews from Mordecai. It is easy to hear this verse and automatically think of people throughout history who have been key instruments in doing God's will--big events like Esther's. However, we then miss the application for us. We might not have a complete country or race of people depending on us to act, but God gives us all opportunities to serve Him and His people. Each day, God puts events in our lives that are "for such a time as this." Perhaps God has given you a neighbor to reach. Maybe you are in a high position in your job to implement guidelines and a culture at work that glorify God. God may have brought you through a trial or very dark valley so that you can empathize with and reach another soul suffering in a similar way. There are so many examples. Take a moment to think about your circumstances. Are you willing to be used? I try to wake up and pray everyday, "God use me today. Help me to be flexible with divine appointments and help me to be a good witness for you." However, I very often forget to look at the everyday, expected routines and people around me. God's appointments don't always have to be unexpected or out of the ordinary. I need to go bring some garden flowers to my newly divorced neighbor and invite her to church. I need to think outside the box in order to show love to and encourage my husband. I need to write a note of encouragement to that ministry leader at church who flies under the radar. I need to share Jesus with the membership checker at the gym who always wants to chat. I need to think about what specific position God has given me in which I am to be used--for all of His followers are to be used for His glory. Finally, Esther recognized her position as Queen and her amazing beauty were not characteristics in which to pride herself. She humbled herself to obedience and the possibility of death. I am not to glory in my efforts or my tasks for God--whether successful or not. I am to humble myself and wonder how such a majestic God could use such a broken human like me--only through the power of Christ Jesus!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gym Rat

Not that you could tell, but I spend about 45 minutes at the gym, 4 days a week. After Having Carter, I felt and saw the effects of bed rest, eating in order to not toss my cookies every hour, and our family's wonderful genetic propensity to gain insane amounts of water weight. For the first time in my life, I had to join a gym. I tried working out at home, but Carter would have none of it while he was awake, and his naps were filled with my need to do Bible study, shower, clean, return phone calls and e-mail, and the list goes on. Well, I have to say I rather enjoy the gym. It helps me take care of the body God gave me, and, as I sweat away on the treadmill, I have time to organize thoughts and to read some devotional/Christian books. I recently finished The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace. It is convicting and wonderfully encouraging. I love that she doesn't dance around the point of Biblical truths, but she unapologetically lays out the scripture and points to the practical applications that should result. In addition, I just finished reading Sister Freaks, by Rebecca St. James. It is a compilation of different women and how they stood/stand out for Christ. Most of the stories were inspiring, though I felt a few were odd or misplaced. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the motivation to be more bold and consumed with my Savior and His will for me. I have been going back and answering the devotional questions for each section of the book. Have you read any outstanding Christian books this summer? I am ready to order a new book online, and I'd love some suggestions.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Humble Beginnings

Well, I was not sure I wanted to take the time to commit to blogging each day (Ha!--okay, every few days). I also wasn't so sure about what I would write. However, my almost forgotten love for writing has combined with my enjoyment of reading all of my friends blogs. I was also spending an inordinate amount of time annoying everyone with numerous e-mails, and I thought that blogging will give my typing hobby an outlet. I love to muse over others' devotional lessons and questions, and I hope I can add a little enjoyment to other people's readings too. Forgive my humble attempts at beginning this blog, and I'll try to improve as I go along.
Today as I was reading my devotions, I came across the verse from II Corinthians 15:58. It reminds us to "Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." I was feeling a bit blue about an activity I was organizing for church that many people couldn't attend. It was a great reminder to look past myself and my effort to the good that God would create from my labor for Him. If only one person attended my event, God would still use my work to bless that person or, perhaps, to grow ME in my walk. I certainly need more reminders that my efforts have nothing to do with me, especially when my plans might be interrupted or changed. Is there something that is coming to your own mind in which you have labored for the Lord, but it isn't quite showing the fruit you expected or thought? Remember that God uses any work "in the Lord" for His good, and don't be discouraged. Keep witnessing, keep praying, keep writing those notes of encouragement, keep visiting, keep leading that group, keep discipling, keep admonishing, keep loving and KEEP WAITING ON THE LORD!