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Archive for March, 2012

I always imagined our family gathered around the table reciting poetry or engaging in meaningful conversations.  Our dinnertime dialouge, though, has much less to do with poetry than with lines learned on the playground or reminders to chew with mouths closed.  All the same, I treasure the regularity of sharing meals together.  Our oldest two children–now teens–are away from home regularly.  Extracurricular activities and friends are far more interesting than trips to the zoo with their younger siblings or hours spent in the company of two out-of-touch parents.  But dinners spent together are an established part of our family tradition.  It’s when we connect and build relationships.

Like my children, I find  my own schedule is crowded.  Job requirements and family needs quickly crowd out moments spent with the my heavenly Father.  There are times I come to His table full of complaints or with a reluctant heart.  Other times, I’m animated and full of excitement.  But, I always leave His presence nourished.  Refreshed.  Sated.

Just like the children I see around the dinner table each night.

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I left the comforts of home today–loaded down with two children bundled safely in the mini-van–for a spring break adventure.  I’d originally planned to visit the butterfly garden outside the city limits, but changed my mind when my companions began asking, “How long will it take before we’re there?”.  Additional time spent in the confines of a 1999 Mercury with impatient grade-schoolers is not something I choose without careful consideration, but the real reason I didn’t venture any further was my lack of confidence.

I didn’t trust Mapquest–or myself.  The “what-if’s” quelled my desire to go beyond what I already knew.  What if the directions weren’t accurate?  What if I took a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of Wyoming without cell phone service?  What if the kids had to use the restroom and we had no other choice but to stop at a run-down, no-name gas station?  Ick!

So, I played it safe.  Our little adventure was relegated to known territory.  Familiar roads.  Comfortable venues.

My spiritual life is prone to the same sort of roadblock.  I sometimes lack confidence in the roadmap and, ultimately, the One who has engineered life itself.  The “what-if’s” begin to cloud my thinking and slow–or eliminate–my progress.  What if God’s word isn’t trustworthy?  What if I misunderstand His plan and end up an Israelite in the middle of the desert?  What if  I fail to go the right direction and stall out at the edge of the Promised Land–able to see it, but forbidden to enter?

Those are the times God reminds me of all the places we’ve already travelled together, where we’ve been, and how far we’ve come.  Tomorrow’s adventure could be the most exciting yet.  Maybe I’ll even visit the butterfly garden.

You’re word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105

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Aunt Linda is the sort of woman who puts fear in the heart of every introverted woman married to a soldier.  Why?  Because Aunt Linda set the standard as the consummate military wife for twenty years.   She loved the adventure of changing stations, meeting new people, and throwing dinner parties.

Once, having just arrived at a new duty station, this fearless military wife sent invitations to all of the neighbors.  Please join us for a progressive dinner on Saturday evening.  If you’d like to serve as one of the hosts, let us know.  More than two dozen couples joined in on the festivities—and remain friends twenty years later.

I, on the other hand, fail to follow Aunt Linda’s example.  An impending move?  I break out in hives.  Mandatory fun?  My least favorite activity.  Host a dinner party for the unit?  I wake up with night sweats.  God did not bless me with the gift of hospitality.

However, a quick study of scripture reveals the exhortation to “practice hospitality”.  (Romans 12:13)  According to Merriam-Webster, the word practice means “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient”.  In other words, all believers—even those inclined to avoid a crowd–are called to extend hospitality.

Hoops and Hospitality

In my case, practicing hospitality is a lot like high school basketball.  Let me explain.  I grew up in a town tucked between wheat fields and boasting fewer than 200 people.  Because there were limited entertainment alternatives, high school basketball reigned as the king of sports.  Unfortunately, I was gifted with neither careful aim nor steady hand.  Determined to succeed, I spent hours practicing.  Shoot.  Dribble.  Jump.  Finally, I earned a starting position on the team.

In the same way, Christians are called to practice hospitality.  By exercising hospitality, we learn to “Put self aside, and help others get ahead.” (Phil. 2:3-MSG) Invite. Invest. Intercede.  And, one day, God will grow us into completion (Phil. 1:6) How will our feeble attempts produce results?

First, when our focus involves sharing Christ’s love rather than masking personal insecurity or concern, God receives the glory.  Are we unwilling to invite someone into our homes because the dust has settled on the top of the refrigerator or there are bread crumbs on the floor?  If so, then pride is impeding our impact for Christ.  Do we claim shyness as a reason for failing to minister to the needs of others?  Perhaps He desires to grow us through our weakness.  As Philippians 2:4 reminds us, “Each of you should look not only to your interests, but to the interests of others. Your attitude should be that of Christ Jesus:  who, in being very nature God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”

Demonstrating obedience to Christ through hospitality also makes a difference in a hurting world.  After all, how many people are struggling with divorce, illness, or job loss?  And, as a part of the military community, each of us is regularly exposed to other women managing the trials of deployment, “single” parenting, and loneliness.  Who might Christ want you to encourage?

Four Easy Ways to Practice Hospitality

While hospitality often takes the form of dinner parties or large get-togethers, four alternative ideas are listed below.

  • Coffee-klatch Close relationships are often fostered in small groups.  Why not invite one or two ladies to join you for coffee and conversation on a regular basis?  Keep things simple and meet at a local coffee shop.
  • Baby Swap Have you noticed a young mother struggling to manage parenting and personal time?  Offer to host a playtime at your home or babysit her children once a month.
  • Silently Supportive Contact your local Wives Club or church group and suggest your home serve as a meeting place for a Military Wives Bible study or prayer group.  You provide a welcoming environment while the group’s leader organizes all other details.
  • Freezer Pleasers   Gather a group once a month to boil, bake, and baste a variety of freezer meals.  Consider donating one meal each to a family new to the community or to a spouse with a newly deployed soldier.

 

I may always prefer a quiet room to a crowd, but I also want to demonstrate obedience to Him.   Will I ever eagerly anticipate mandatory fun?  Unlikely.  Am I destined to assume the role of party-planner extraordinaire?  Only if paper plates are involved.  Can He teach me to practice hospitality in order to impact the lives of others?    Absolutely.  When do you want to meet for coffee?

 

 

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I’m not inviting my girlfriend over because you embarrass me. The words, emphatically offered by my teenage son, stung. How could I possibly cause embarrassment? After all, I never produce questionable baby pictures or use childhood nicknames when meeting Ben’s friends. Instead, I make popcorn, rent the requested DVD’s, and remain outside of the immediate area.
Mother guilt engulfed me. Had I done anything in particular to cause embarrassment? He must think I’m too serious. Maybe I should buy a few joke books. Or, it could be my music. I’ll need to remember not to play smooth jazz when people visit. Then, the truth struck me. Ben isn’t embarrassed by one specific thing—he’s embarrassed by who I am.


While considering my son’s assertion I was reminded of Romans 8:35 which reassures Christians that “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ”. Despite my areas of weakness, poor choices, and sinful nature God offers love and acceptance. And, unlike my earthly family, the heavenly Father is never embarrassed by who I am. Instead, he sees me through the lens of Christ’s sacrifice—as his beloved child.
Do you ever struggle with acceptance? Are you afraid you might do something to put an important relationship at risk? Friend, take comfort. Your Lord knows you intimately and nothing you do will ever jeopardize your position in his family.
Now…about those baby pictures.

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Call me a doubting Thomas, but I never believe Colorado’s weathermen. The Farmer’s Almanac, my son’s makeshift barometer, and grandma’s arthritic fingers all prove more accurate than local predictions.
Fortunately, God’s word is far more reliable and trustworthy than the Weather Channel. Unlike the storm threatening on the horizon, He is unchanging—a source of protection and love in every season of our lives and through any circumstance.
Friend, remember that whether you are in the midst of the storm or basking in the sun, God remains constant. As Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” He stands ready to offer His strength. Why not find refuge in the Rock today?

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“…be content with what you have because God has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

“I hate you!” my five-year-old son yelled—the words bursting from his small, reddened face. Seth’s tiny fists were clenched in rage; his eyes lit with emotion. “If you give me what I want,” he said, “I’ll stop fussing.” Unfortunately for the rest of the customers in the store (who were either smiling knowingly or shaking their heads with disapproval), I refused to comply. Sadly, Seth never tasted the coveted Tootsie Pop places so temptingly within reach at the checkout counter.

Much like a preschooler, I often make unreasonable demands of God. “Lord,” I pray, “if you will only do what I ask, then I’ll be satisfied. I’ll stop fussing—when I have that job, enough money in the bank, or children who don’t throw tantrums in public.”

Just as I did with my own son, the heavenly Father sometimes denies His children that which seems good and whispers instead, “Child, I know what is best for you. Find your satisfaction in me.”

Lord, thank you for giving me what I need and for withholding what I don’t. Teach me to find my satisfaction in you.

Blessings,
Tammy

                                                                    I feel like throwing my own fit when…?

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Teach your preschooler practical ways to love others using this simple activity.
First, assemble a booklet made of blank construction paper. Join your preschoolers on a “picture walk” as you look through magazines. Help your children find pictures of people who are demonstrating love. Ask such questions as, “Can you find a picture of someone being helpful? Do you notice anyone sharing? Praying together? How else might a person show they love somebody?”
After deciding on a few pictures, cut or tear them out of the magazines and glue onto pre-assembled booklet pages. Using the pictures as a prompt, discuss ways you and your children can love other people. Give your child a supply of crayons and a piece of paper labeled with the words, “I can show love to (name) by (action).” Attach the personalized page to the new book and place it in your family library.
Review-
1. Read the book together during family devotions.
2. Create additional pages as your children discover other ways to express love.
3. For each day of the week, choose one person to whom your children can demonstrate love. You might bake cookies together, draw a picture, or pray for that person.

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“I thought I would be the perfect mother. Then, I had children.”

The words drifted from the cars’ speakers as I pushed the dashboard button. I smiled, agreeing inwardly. I remembered all of the dreams I had of being that sort of mother, too. My goal wasn’t lofty. Angry words? Never. Consistency of discipline? Always. Great attitude? Every day.
You may have guessed…I haven’t come close to living up to my ideal. I’ve regretted words, failed to know how to discipline, and feel overwhelmed or irritated on a regular basis. Do you relate?
In my shortcomings, I’m reminded that God is the perfect parent. His love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). If I rely on His word, turn to Him for understanding, and trust His direction for the children He has given me then I can give up the idea of parenting perfectly. I’ll do my best and trust that God–the One who is perfection–is working in their lives despite and through my imperfection.

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I hit the floor running today.  My highschooler missed the bus which meant…

my middleschooler had to walk to school which meant…

he scrapped with the little ones…

who had to eat prepackaged, processed lunch items from the Walgreen’s refrigerated section because…

I hadn’t packed lunches the night before despite…

my plan to stay on top of things.  Not only that, but the dog at the toilet paper because…

she was locked in the bathroom which meant…

I had to sweep and scrub the floor when I got home because…

she had an accident.

It was a hamster-in-the-spinning-wheel sort of day!  Can you relate?

If so then…

stop running around in circles,

take a breath,

and find a moment to spend time with the One who can quiet our souls.

How do you manage days like this?  Do you have any tips for others?

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As a teen, I was always offended when my mother asked one of her favorite questions–Would you jump off a cliff if your friends asked you to?  If I had answered  honestly, I might have said, “Yes.”  Like most young people, I wanted to be accepted, cared for, and…well…special to someone.  Jumping off the proverbial cliff was a possibility if I could just gain that elusive acceptance.

I was like the sheep noted in a 2005 USA Today article.  Did you read it?  Imagine the setting.  A few thousand sheep dot the rugged, Turkish landscape.  Just as the sun begins peeking over the horizon, the shepherds–hungry and cold–leave their flocks contentedly grazing to make a quick trip into town breakfast.  But, one sheep–either desperate or stupid–wanders away and leaps over a cliff and to his death.  Sadly, 1,500 other sheep follow.   

Now a “mature” adult, there are times I still find myself sliding toward the slippery slope. But the Great Shepherd rescues me and restores me to His fold, a place of safety where all of my needs are tenderly met.  All believers have this same reassurance.  As 1 Peter 2:25 reminds us, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

Today, thank God for the times he has resuced you–whether you were at the edge of the cliff or already at the bottom. 

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