Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘spiritual growth’

If you dig beneath the frozen hard pack, a seed lies encased in a small earthen capsule. Impatiently, it waits for the warmth of the sun to coax it from the fragile protection of a paper-thin wrap. Stretching and arching, tender leaves burst forth–cracking the protective gauze and unfurling with slow precision to reveal the unique impressions of individuality. There is a brightness of hue…a turn of the petal…that causes me to pause.

And I know…the Master Gardener chose this one to live a blessed life. A life of joy, meaning, and fulfillment. This young shoot was meant for more than the silken prison in which it was wrapped.

And I give thanks that in the midst of the dark and despite the odds…the seed became so much more. Then, slowly, I dip near the blossom to inhale its fragrance.

SCRIPTURE FOR REFLECTION

Praise be to the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Read Full Post »

She smiled brightly and her pale face seemed to evidence the truth of the story that splashed across international headlines.–Girl Survives on Ramen  for 13 Years.  

Eighteen-year-old Georgi Readman has been surviving on a diet of the salt-infused-I-hated-to-eat-them-in-college noodles for most of her young life.  At only 5’1″ and a mere  98 pounds, Georgi’s petite frame houses the emaciated workings  of a woman six decades her age.  

Unwilling–or unable–to even eat a fruit or vegetable, Georgi is unknowingly living by dying.  Repelled by what is healthy or desirable, she shuns the company of friends for fear of having her folly noticed.

But Georgi has hope.  She has youth…doctors…awareness.  Sometimes, we suffer in the same way.  We don’t notice–or refuse to recognize– a similar condition in our own lives.  A deep hunger…a need unfulfilled…a spiritual gauntness.

Jesus once said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  Friends, are we starving or satiated?  Have we consumed the word of God?  Are we so full of His love, truth, and compassion that others desire sharing from the same plate of  His bountiful goodness?

If the Associated Press wrote your story or mine would the title read, Woman Survives on the Word of God for Thirteen Years?  Wouldn’t that be an interesting headline?

 

Read Full Post »

Transition–the uncomfortable place I find myself when the latest move, deployment, or reunion requires adjustment.   As with most military families, one of the most challenging transitions for our family involved the return of my husband from his tour.  This doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it?  After all, like a young mother anticipating the birth of her child I spent months imagining what life would be like when my husband returned safely from Afghanistan.  Emotions ran the gambit—joy, relief, and anxiety—until the day finally arrived.    But, after a few weeks of renewing family relationships, the day-to-day reality of sharing life set in.  We had to adapt to togetherness as much as we did to being apart.

Rules of Engagement

Two-hundred-forty days of boots on the ground—not including training.  That number symbolizes the amount of time Dave spent in the combat zone and away from the home front.  It also defines nearly a year of our family life.  Dave slept on a narrow cot; I slept (or lay awake) between two anxious children.  He dealt with insurgents outside the wire; I installed a home security system to keep adventurous teens inside the home.  My husband ate the cold remains of what had conveniently been labeled food; I served cereal for supper.   The “normal” of each of our lives assumed a different shape. Now that he was home, how were we to re-engage?

I could temporarily vacate my parenting role; perhaps enjoy an emotional vacation while Dave re-established his position in the home.  Or, maybe I should assert my way of doing things.  Why exchange predictability for a different approach?  Unfortunately, I sometimes waver between these two extremes.  But scripture reminds all of us to “consider others better than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2:3)  Neither approach is acceptable.  Wives and husbands—even those experiencing the interrupted lifestyle of being a military couple—provide their children with a level of stability and security when family norms are jointly agreed upon and managed.

Love and War

The distance imposed by Dave’s deployment clouded my thinking in the same way a dust storm filled the desert sky.  Was he safe?  Did he still love me?  Would he come home?  Such thoughts, constantly a part of my mental landscape, stung.  Unfortunately, remnants of the storm remained behind even after my husband’s return.  What if became my new mantra.  What if Dave isn’t happy to be home?  What if being a family man seems less appealing than it did before?  What if…

Fear and negativity, my strongest adversaries, threatened to invade the confines of our home.  If Dave expressed frustration or felt overwhelmed by the demands of four children and an unusually independent wife, I reacted defensively.  Separation required we re-examine boundaries, adjust to the climate, and expect the best of one another.

Standard Operating Procedure

Our first step toward preparing for transitional trials was to create a plan in advance of major change.  We set aside time with each other to discuss questions, concerns, and feelings.  Then, Dave and I prayed together.  After all, what better way is there to support a marriage and family?  And, thanks to technological advances, praying for one another—and our family–continued throughout training, deployments, and more.

While we expected difficulties, we didn’t invite them.  I quickly learned that when my inner monologue developed into a diatribe, I had to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 2:5) and replace it with positive thinking.

Finally, remembering the storm will end provides motivation to continue.  Eventually the dust settles and, sometimes, an oasis lies within reach.

Read Full Post »

english bulldog with  hot water bottle - suffer a migraine

 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  NIV (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“There’s got to be more to life than this…”  These words–spoken sixty years ago by a young woman with four children and a traveling husband– reverberate in my mind more often than I’d like to admit.

At times like this–when I’ve spent the day scrubbing toilets and wondering who spit their gum behind the stool.  At times like this–when the day’s laundry and homework swallow the sunshine and I answer “no” when my little girl asks to go to the park.  At times like this–when the tension of work and family coincide and I wonder when things get easier.

Then I’m reminded of the moments that are more.  So much more.  Those times I read a bedtime story beneath the covers with a wiggly eight-year-old.  Those times I hear the deep-throated belly laugh of my little boy as he tells a joke.  Those times I pray for the dear ones in my life–knowing I couldn’t demonstrate love for them any better in any other way.

Sometimes living radically is about the day-to-day faithfulness to love–just love.  Sometimes living radically is about leading through serving–even as a wife and mother.  Sometimes living radically is trusting God enough to know his plan for your child’s life extends beyond today’s struggles.

Living radically…loving radically…trusting radically.  Just for today.

Read Full Post »

 A friend recently told me I was trying too hard to be the perfect Christian mother.  We REALLY need to get to know each other on a deeper level.  She would never have made such a misguided comment if she had witnessed some of my more recent failings and faux pas.  Consider the challenge of spiritual growth.

As a mother of four children it can be difficult to establish a regular devotional time.  First, there is the concentration issue.  All mothers know a nursing baby can be demanding.  In fact, I’m awake so much at night I could hold my own candlelight service!  Unfortunately, because my eyes cross at any attempt to read Psalm 23 (you know, the one that soothes frayed nerves with the verse “He market me to lie down in green pastures”) and drool leaves a permanent wet spot on the Bopp pillow during our nightly nursing sessions—not from the baby, but her mother—I have recognized that 3 a.m. is not the best time for me to memorize Old Testament genealogies.

Another problem is that reading the Baby Bible Book to my two-year old after bath time probably doesn’t qualify as an in-depth Bible study.  It’s true I can deftly perform a perky finger play about most of the major Bible heroes, but I haven’t yet learned about the transfiguration or the implications of free-will versus predestination.

One of the greatest challenges is finding a few solitary moments to thoughtfully meditate on God’s word.  Many times, I will have managed to tuck the two little ones snuggly in their cribs for naps.  I surreptitiously grab my Bible and sneak off to a quiet spot (usually the bathtub where I slink down and draw the curtain in hopes I won’t be discovered) when I hear the tell-tale sounds of my two older boys scuffling and rolling about the living room floor.  I vault from the confines of my hide-away to discover that Ben, my first-born, has his younger brother in a scissors lock rivaled only by the best of the best in WWF wrestling.  Yes, I may have just read about “a gentle and quiet spirit”, but surely God didn’t expect for me to exemplify that sweet demeanor when my children have turned the sofa over on its side as their ring-side boundary.

At face value, this glimpse into my family life may not seem to offer much.    Like many other women, I am just a busy mom who loves her Lord.  But, there are three spiritual survival skills imbedded within this story.

 Matters of the Heart

God commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”   This passage sets a pattern that helps believers relate the Word of God to our daily lives.  We are to love God, think constantly about his commandments, teach his commandments to our children, and live each day by the guidelines in His Word.  God emphasized the importance of parents’ teaching the Bible to their children because eternal truths are most effectively learned in the loving environment of a God-fearing home.’ Life Application Bible, 291

 Hide and Seek

              While it is possible other women don’t resort to hiding in the bathtub in order to study the scripture, the concept of hiding away is an important one.  It can be a challenge to make time for God when your day is full of diapering, disinfecting, and various other pressing duties.    But, in order to develop the heart relationship just mentioned, it’s a necessity.  As one fellow Christian put it, “Every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed alone with God.  Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!”

Super steward vs. Supermom

Society promotes the idea that a mom should have it all together.  She should, in fact, be Supermom.   Assuming such a role is prideful because it removes Christ from the position He should maintain in our lives. He is to be a mother’s strength.   Children belong to Christ while a parent is only a steward—meant to tend and guard God’s precious treasure.  There will be times in mothering that we are overwhelmed, unsure, or even frightened. But, remember the Lord is the Abba Father. He will calm our hearts as we claim the verses from Philippians that counsel with the words, “The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

So find your quiet place, friends—bathtub, closet, or coffee shop.  Your Strength and Wisdom waits for you there.

Recommended Books for Busy Moms

http://www.amazon.com/Real-Moms-Real-Jesus-Friend-Understands/dp/0802483615/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775204&sr=1-3&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

http://www.amazon.com/Mom-After-Gods-Heart-Devotional/dp/0736947590/ref=sr_1_21?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775347&sr=1-21&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Care-Me-Mommy-Becoming/dp/B000O3S39S/ref=sr_1_35?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775395&sr=1-35&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

Read Full Post »

I can still see my mother poised on the top of the ladder, rubber kitchen gloves pulled up to her elbows.  Thrusting a brillo pad in a bucket of steaming water and ammonia, she’d scrub the walls until every dust streak or scuff mark disappeared.  Spring cleaning almost seemed to take on the same importance as a birthday to a child.

Because of my mother’s example, I learned how to sort laundry, polish copper pots, and properly fold bed sheets.  But, with four children and a full-time job outside of the home, I admit to cutting corners.  My walls rarely feel the sharp points of a scrub brush, dust bunnies nestle safely under the sofa, and I only clean my oven on an as needed basis or before major holidays—whichever comes first.

If I manage to maintain a presentable main level and clean toilets—despite having three sons—I am (mostly) satisfied.  After all, everything looks clean.

Christ addressed this type of pseudo -cleanliness when he said, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” (NLT)

In Jesus’ culture, tombs were a symbol of uncleanliness.  Anyone who came in contact with a tomb was considered impure for seven days.  Jewish law required him to complete a series of rigid purification rites in order to worship God.  Refusal resulted in being cast from the community—and worship.

Because a bright, shiny tomb is more easily avoided than a grey rock camouflaged on the hillside, graves were whitewashed annually.  Few would stumble over the lovely markers dotting the landscape and were able to avoid being polluted—at least externally.

Like a house with a freshly swept front step and flowers dotting the landscape, we can dress up our appearance and seem bright and shiny on the outside but still need cleansing in the hidden corners of our hearts.  The Pharisees did.  As Jewish religious leaders, they were admired for their knowledge, eloquent prayers, and practice of their faith.  Sadly, these traits were only skin deep and Christ knew it.  He saw past the carefully placed décor and noticed the masked filth.

As believers, Christ continues to cleanse us of our impurity.  He stoops down on hands and knees and washes the dirt from the dark places. There are times, though, when we hide our struggles, sins, or strivings from each other—even from ourselves.  We hang a cheerful smile on our faces and respond with the words, “I’m fine” when asked how we’re doing—even though we really need a hug or an encouraging word.

Let’s be more than presentable. Invite a friend or loved one into the heart of your home where she can get to know you.   Share life’s struggles.  Pray.  Be real.  A little dust won’t bother her.  She needs to clean her house, too.

 

Read Full Post »

 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.–Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

Maps were a mystery to me.  After all, I didn’t need to use one in the small farm town where I grew up.  But, Seattle was different.  Unfamiliar bridges, detours, and people who attended the Move-It-or-Lose-It-School of-Driving seemed to dot every hill, loop, and crossing.  I was directionally challenged and didn’t know where I was headed.

Have you been in a similar situation?  Do you ever find yourself thinking, Where are you taking me, Lord?  I didn’t anticipate this bend in the road.

He may lead you through unexpected terrain.  In a different direction.  Even to a place with a completely different view.

To get to the place you need to be, ask Him for direction.  You’ll never be lost when He’s behind the wheel.

Just for Today:  Ask Him to lead you–toward growth, forgiveness, becoming.

Recommended Reading:

 Amazing Love: True Stories of the Power of Forgiveness  by Corrie Ten Boom

The Purpose Driven Life:  What on Earth am I Here For?  by Rick Warren

Betrayed by God?  by Shana Schutte

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: