Saturday, July 26, 2014

Story Writer


A middle-aged woman wearing comfortable sandals and a practical cardigan leans in toward her companion at the fast food counter.  I watch as she gestures toward choices highlighted on the menu above their heads.  Her companion is much older.  My guess is that she is the mother of the first woman.  The younger woman cups her hand around the ears of the older woman and gestures once again.  The older woman nods, mutters something, and the younger woman finally places an order.

 

From my place in the back of the line I watch.  I can imagine the day, decades ago, when the roles were reversed and the now stooped and very elderly woman was a busy mom, taking meal requests from her little girl.

 

"Pink, Mommy, pink!"  My three year old daughter squeals about something in her favorite color that has caught her eye.  I nod, having no idea just what is exciting her at the moment.  I order for both of us, we find a table in the mall's food court, and sit down.  Since my daughter is my only companion this day and her conversation is pretty much limited to her favorite colors, her favorite princess, and her favorite movie, I allow my eyes to roam the court, watching others.

 

I see a tired-looking young mom, balancing a tray of food with one hand.  She has a duo of tow-headed youngsters with her, obediently clinging to her stroller handles.  Two blue blankets cover the seats.  I assume that, underneath, new twins sleep.  She must be so tired!

 

I spy a foursome of coltish, young teen girls.  Nervously, they sneak glances at one another while laughing at something the other has said.  I remember those days of my own - wishing I had the courage to be my own person, but craving acceptance from my peers.  You couldn't pay me to be a teenager again.

 

An older couple shares a table, not talking.  The atmosphere around them is relaxed, though.  There's just nothing to say at the moment.  They've already said it all and are simply enjoying the act of being together.

 

High-pitched voices behind me catch my ear.  A wife chatters in rapid Spanish to her husband who listens quietly (or can't fit a word in).  I can't even begin to guess what's happening there!

 

It occurs to me that while I am watching others, they may be watching me.  What do they see, I wonder?  Can they figure out my story by looking at me?  They see a mom who passed the friendly side of forty some time ago.  They probably smile because it's obvious my daughter is mine by adoption and that fact seems to please most people.  If they're really into their people-watching, they may assume that I'll leave the mall, drive home to a couple more equally cute children, a nice house, and an adoring husband - the whole package. 

 

As we all know, appearances are often deceitful.  I wonder how well I was able to guess at the stories I saw around me today in the mall.  Perhaps what I saw on the surface had very little to do with reality.

 

Fortunately, there's One Who already knows our story.  We don't have to explain anything to Him.  He created us, love us infinitely more than we understand, and yearns for our companionship.  When nobody else knows our story, He does.

 

Because He's writing it.

 

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
 You know my sitting down and my rising up;

You understand my thought afar off.
 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
Ps. 139:2
 
 
 
Picture courtesy of lovewithoutalimit.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Feeling Lazy?

Am I the only one who feels the urge to be lazy during the summer? Bright sunshine and warm temperatures make it difficult for me to concentrate on the things I need to accomplish. Friends are headed on vacation and neighbors congregate at the pool.

There’s nothing wrong with relaxing. In fact, taking a break is necessary. Studies show that productivity is actually enhanced when we take regular breaks from our work.

Laziness v. taking a break

I’m not disputing the value of taking a much needed break. What I’m talking about is doing nothing because I don’t feel like working. And trust me, I struggle with this one.

The Bible has a lot to say about people who are lazy. It refers to them as sluggards. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound too appealing to me.

Lessons from Proverbs

Here are some things I learned from the book of Proverbs:

1 – Laziness sets a bad example for my family and those who are watching me

My daughter learns from my example. If I exhibit laziness by consistently sleeping in late, ignoring the work I have to do, and sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time, how can I expect her to act any differently? God’s Word puts it this way:
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. Proverbs 6:9-11
2 – Laziness causes me to make excuses and give myself an easy out

When I want to avoid the things I should be doing, I can find lots of excuses: it’s too cold outside, it’s too warm, I’m too tired, I did a lot yesterday. And the list goes on. But the results can be devastating. Although all work and no play can make me a dull person; all play and no work leaves me with a never-ending list of things that need to be accomplished.
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. Proverbs 20:4
3 – Laziness is a form of selfishness (click to tweet)

When I choose to be lazy, not only am I ignoring the work I should be doing, but I’m failing to contribute to the lives of others. As a wife and mother, I’m responsible to provide certain things for my family. Notice the wisdom in Solomon’s words:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8

Laziness leads to all sorts of problems (click to tweet). I’m better off realizing the benefits of the work God has given me to do and doing it to the best of my ability.

Your turn

Do you struggle with laziness? What will you do to make the most of the time God has given you?


Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for showing me the pitfalls of being lazy. Forgive me when I act selfishly and refuse to do the work You’ve given me to do. Help me be a diligent worker, and a good example to my family and others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


*Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker and is passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She lives in sunny Georgia with her husband and daughter, two dogs and two cats. Visit her on the web and download a free copy of her eBook, God Speaking.  Connect with  her on Facebook and Twitter!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Context

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 2 Peter 1:20

As a writer, and former English teacher, context is important. I was always taught to be sure I consider "the words around" a statement, and the actions of the speaker, to ensure I grasp the correct meaning.

"I'm sorry" can mean the exact opposite of those words' dictionary definitions if said in a certain tone, or in a certain situation.

 Of course, one of the most dangerous places to do this is in God's Word. One verse pulled from just about any book of the Bible (but perhaps especially Ecclesiastes!!) can easily be used to profess something God was not in any way saying or advocating.

But it doesn't stop folks from doing it. And it can do some serious damage to a new believer, a seeker, and/or the cause of Christ.
But guess what? I'm gonna do it anyway. (don't run away screaming, please - gimme a minute or so, okay?)
My post today was to be about selfishness (mostly mine), but when I was searching on Bible Gateway for a verse, one jumped out at me and I HAD to grab it and write about it. Because it's a profound truth. Because it's the reminder I needed to deal with my selfishness. Because it helped me get my focus back where it needed to be.

You see, my selfishness was caused by my focus. It had been a long, busy week. I felt like a headless chicken. And there was somewhere else I wished I could have been - which wasn't helping. I just wanted everything to go smoothly, and easily, and wonderfully.

I was looking around at my circumstances and whining that they weren't ideal for me. And it was making me grumpy.

All I really needed to do was stop by Bible Gateway, do a search, and come up with Matthew 17:8. And there was my answer.
When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
That's what I need to do. Look up. Nothing up there but Jesus, right? Keep my eyes off my circumstances and focus on Him, and the selfishness will be gone. :)

Now that MAY be true - (and, in fact, it likely is) but you do NOT build a philosophy or worldview from ten words pulled from the middle of some chapter. What if the verse that popped up had been Numbers 25:17? Or Exodus 21:23-25? Or 1 Timothy 5:23? (yeah- go look 'em up)

So, be careful where you get your lessons - watch context, and, most importantly, the Spirit's guiding of you. His Word is powerful - just be sure you're paying attention.

So, who looked up Matthew 17:8 and checked the context? Did any of you know where it was from without looking it up? Do you sometimes find yourself taking verses out of context?

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Max Versus the Goats

 

Funny how life’s distractions can lead to fearful, frustrating behaviors. Take my Basset Hound, Max, for example. He has a big problem. To say he is timid is stating it mildly. If you walk too close to him, he yelps as if you’ll step on him. Though we’ve pampered him since we received him as a six-month-old pup, the trauma of his young years has molded the dog he is.

He shares a large pasture with our calf and the goats: one billy, six nannies, and a kid. Within the pasture, we’ve fixed Max his own space, a nice chain link enclosure. Inside sits his dog house, food dish, and even a fan for the hottest southern weather.

We purposely made the opening to his enclosure small to discourage the goats from entering. They have access to the large barn, and have no need to bother Max. Yet they do.

Daily, a couple of the goats finagle their way into his space, getting in his dog house, or even standing on top of it. They’re a nuisance. But unless Max is eating, however, he won’t bark or even growl. He doesn’t use the teeth God gave him to defend his territory. Rather, he sits there, staring at the invaders who won’t leave him alone.

Can you see an analogy here?

God promised in His Word that He loves us and will always be by our side. He encourages us through His Word and His church and has given us everything we need to stand strong in Him and defend our territory. Yet we have a persistent enemy, much like the goats, who want to move into that territory and create havoc.

Like Max, if it’s real important to us, we’ll ask for prayer and stand strong against the enemy of our soul. We use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, while taking up the shield of faith.

“…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Ephesians 10:16-17 NKJV

There are many reasons we don’t call on God for help, and then use what He has given us. We allow distractions like guilt, fear, and disappointment to enter our territory without a word. Like Max, we look around in misery, wishing everything would leave us alone.

I mentioned this analogy to my friend, Kathy. She reminded me Max had been timid since day one. His nature had been developed as a pup. I agreed. However, dogs and people are different.

As a child of God, we haven’t been given a spirit of fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
 
God has equipped us for battle and encourages us in His Word to use the full armor of God, both the offensive and defensive weapons. It’s up to us to pray and wield the Sword when necessary, not cower in our enclosure.

I learned a valuable lesson from Max, one I intend to take to hear. What about you?



Prayer focus: Father God, help me to use the weapons you have given me, especially the resource of prayer. Help me to move when You move and speak Your Word when the enemy comes against me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Restless Spirit

If you know me at all, you know that I suffer from almost nightly insomnia. My sleeplessness has various causes: a genetic predisposition (thanks, Mom…), inability to turn off my brain, chronic worry, a warm pillow, my husband’s snoring, any sound coming from anywhere within a mile of my bed.

Not my legs. Image from stock.xchng.com
And my insomnia is exacerbated by a distressing condition called Restless Legs Syndrome. It sounds almost comical, and in fact, it’s fairly ridiculous. When I have a flare-up of RLS, as soon as I get into bed, my legs, without my consent, decide that they need to take a nice long walk. If I try to keep them still so as not to disturb my husband, they feel a sort of existential angst that manifests itself as an irresistible need to move them. The harder I try to not move, the weirder my legs feel: it’s an indescribable, creepy writhing—not of the muscles, but of the very essence of legness.

Once I get out of bed and walk—maybe to the kitchen for that last piece of cake—my legs feel just fine. No writhing, no angst—but now I’m awake, and full.

On really bad nights, even my arms get into the act, and I have to get up and pace, swinging my arms like some demented gorilla. Eating cake. A demented, cake-eating gorilla, who is wide awake at 2:00 in the morning.

Happily, I don’t have an episode of RLS every night—only several times a year. A few different medical interventions have helped, and if RLS was my only sleep-related problem, I’d be a happy gal most nights. Refer back to my first paragraph if you’ve already forgotten all of the other things that keep me awake.

My spirit, too, frequently suffers from an unwanted restlessness. Some of those same worries that keep me from sleeping at night can also steal my spirit’s peace, making me writhe with discontent, impatience, care.

The Psalmist felt the same restless struggling, and he wrote about how God had quieted him in one of the lesser-known Psalms, the 131st. It reads:

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

Seven years ago, I used this Psalm to inspire one of my few attempts at writing free verse. There’s a lot that I’d like to change about this poem, and this blog won't let me format it correctly, but I’m going to just let it be—one less thing to disquiet my spirit. My hope is in the Lord, both now and forevermore.
  
A Poet Rests in the 131st Psalm

But…

But I am a leaf slightly quivering…


But I have been a ripple that tickles silver sands…


But I have stilled the thump of my heart with the syllables of Your holy name…


But I have stilled and quieted my soul…


Like…


Like a breath, a whispered breeze…


Like a weaned kitten who purrs with
throaty and contented rumbles…


Like a weaned child no more blind and panicked rooting, no more grasps from dimpled fingers…


Like a weaned child with its mother…


Like…


Like a whisper, a sweetly spoken caress…


Like a weaned child ready to stand, to stretch, to step, I grasp your hand, and trust…


Is…


Is my hushed, hushed, soothed and rested self…


Is my soul when You quiet me when You cover me, when You surround me…


Is my soul within my soul without, my soul yesterday and tomorrow, my soul there and here…


Is my soul within me when You lead me to the place where all is still—is still—is still…


Like a weaned child is my soul within me...


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

A New Person

The Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.  1 Samuel 10:6

The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity, and has existed in eternity past, and will continue to exist into eternity future. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always have been, are, and always will be. That's one of the bases of our faith.

But the third Person of the Trinity functioned differently on either side of the Cross. Yet, He is the same Spirit.

Before Christ's death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon specific people for specific tasks. It wasn't a permanent thing. Baalam received God's Spirit to  prophecy (Numbers 24), Gideon to lead men into battle (Judges 6), Samson to tear apart a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14), Saul to prophecy twice (1 Samuel 10 and 19), and Bezalel to perform artistic work for the tabernacle (Exodus 31). And these are just a few examples.

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Now that Christ has been resurrected and has returned to the Father, His Spirit lives forever in the hearts of each of God's children. We don't receive His Spirit to simply perform a task. It is there to comfort, lead, and guide us through all our circumstances--not just a specific project the Lord has chosen to give us.

But some things never change. When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you cannot remain the same. Even Saul, who would later greatly disappoint the Lord and His people, was "changed into a different person" when the Spirit came upon him. And so it happened to every person, on either side of the cross, who received/s God's Spirit.

And the biggest blessing of the New Testament is that, with the Spirit in us permanently, our change is also permanent. We are His children, and always will be.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Enjoy It While You Can

Some things fall into the category of “Enjoy It While You Can.”  Take, for example, this view from our back deck.


That’s Lake Macatawa, on the eastern edge of Lake Michigan. We didn’t know we had this view when we bought our simple, 1970s ranch house last summer. But when we took down a few trees, and our neighbor did the same, the result was this unexpected view of the water.

Ah, to sit, sip, and sigh, enjoying God’s pallet of blues and greens, the shift of the sun as it cuts through the dappled shade, the delight in catching a view of a kayak or fishing boat floating by.

There’s something about being by the water--even 500 feet and looking through the neighbor’s yard to see the water--that satisfies my spirit and strengthens my heart’s beat. I’m surprised at how it affects me. It’s like when someone gives you a gift that’s something you’d never dream of for yourself, and it’s so perfect for you, it’s like they know you better than you know yourself. Yep, that’d be Jesus, the perfect giver of all gifts.

Sigh. Thank you, Lord.

But I know this gift won’t last forever. I can already hear the boys with their big trucks coming down the street. You see, while we took down trees that were too close to our house, and, I’ll admit, to eliminate a few thousand acorns in our yard, our neighbors’ tree removal involved a different plan—plans for a bigger house. Right on the lake.

Right smack in the middle of our view.

How could they?

(Honestly, who could blame them? You and I might do the same thing, given the resources.)

So, this view, this gift, is truly awesome. And I love it. LOVE IT. But it’s also short-lived. At best, I’ll have a few more weeks before the construction site completely blocks out the water. I’ll be sad when it’s gone, and I’m trying not to dwell on the inevitable. Everything has a time and a season, right?

Well, not everything. I’m reminded that some things never go away. Things like:
  • “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8 
  • “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” I Chronicles 16:34 
  • “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” Lamentations 3: 22-23 
  • “Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.” Psalm 111:3 
  • “The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:2 
  • Your name, Lord, endures forever, your renown, Lord, through all generations.” Psalm 135:13 
  • “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.” Daniel 4:3 
 Longer yet is the list of God’s gifts that never expire, never wear out, never break. These are the gifts that I can—I will—enjoy every day. And they’re so much better than a peek-a-boo view of a lake. 
 
Grateful for His Love, 
 
LuAnn Kern

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