Monday, March 12, 2012

Settling for Cheap and Fake

Have you ever walked down an aisle of a super store and wonder with amazement why they come up with all of that junk? I know I do - in particular the useless novelty items begging for my children's attention as we roam up and down those aisles. A lot of those items are made of cheap plastic that usually only lasts a week or two because my kids have either lost interest in the novelty or because it broke. It's not just the cheap plastic items I wonder about either. I am also curious about other areas we as a society want to fill with cheap, shiny things. It's the quick, highly processed food, the awful reality shows (which I admit, I do watch), the politician's soundbite, the hero-worship of celebrities and so on. 

In my opinion, we are losing grasp of what is real and genuine. I think we do this to hide the ugliness of life. A lot of us are born with the innate desire to be perfect and to live the perfect life, but then life happens and suddenly what is reality does not fit into our paradigm of what life is. We search for quick fixes to make us feel better, but sadly those quick fixes are temporary. Before you know it, we are in a vicious cycle of cheap fixes. 

Life has its ugly moments. James 1:1-3 says "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds..."(NIV; emphasis mine). Did you notice the word "whenever"? He didn't say "if," he said "whenever" which pretty much guarantees that life will get messy. What we need to do, particularly during those times, is to keep our focus on what is real and that is Jesus. He had ugly moments as well (the loss of Joseph, the beheading of his cousin, John the Baptist, His own trial and death). He kept His focus on what was real and what His mission was for His life. He communed with His Father, comforted His friends (Mary and Martha after Lazarus' death), and even healed the man arresting Him. He also confronted the Pharisees and their ways. One of His charges against the hypocrites was their attempt at fasting - basically walking around looking hungry, wanting adulation for their "pious" ways. They were being fake. They took the attention off of the Lord and placed it upon themselves. That is the danger of settling for the cheap and fake. We fill those ugly moments with what "we" think is nice instead of embracing the complex beauty of this experience the Lord has called us to. I know - I have done the same thing during an ugly moment in my life. I tried to fill those voids with cheap replacements, only to be disappointed time and again. The only One who could fill that void was God. Once I turned back to Him, I realized my ugly moment, though painful, brought out His glory and His Beauty.

Don't settle for the cheap and fake. Nothing is better than the real hope, the real love, and the real grace the Lord extends to His children. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pleasing the Lord

I admit it - this past week in particular, I have been extremely pleased with my oldest child. My child has worked hard to accomplish something and it is now being rewarded (to protect my child's privacy, I will remain non-specific). This reward brings pure joy to my child's heart and I'm bursting with pride and excitement.

Now I wonder if the Lord is pleased with His children like a parent is with their own child? I'm sure He did with Christ - remember what He said as the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ during his baptism - "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17; NIV)? In the past, whether due to lack of spiritual maturity or faulty teachings, I viewed God as looking down on me, constantly condemning me for the sin in my life. I felt as if He was pointing His finger down at me saying "You should have done this," or "you could have done that better." I didn't feel as if He was pleased with me.  

I have since learned this is not completely true. To begin with, the Lord knows I'm not perfect, which is why He sent His Son to die for me. And He didn't stop with the sacrifice of Christ. He then sent His Holy Spirit - our helper to guide us through this life. There are also scriptures explaining how we can please God, our Father in Heaven. Romans 12:1 says "Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this your true and proper worship" (NIV).

Need another example? Romans 14:17-18 says "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God..."(NIV).

Finally, one more verse - this is from 1 Chronicles 29:17 - "I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity..."(NIV).

So, it seems to me that living a righteous life - full of integrity and sacrifice pleases the Lord. And even when I do mess up, He is there to pick me up and give me another chance - because that is what a merciful, gracious and loving Father does. Knowing this frees me. I can now come to the Lord with a heart of worship, not one of fear. Though we are to fear the Lord, I want my worship to stem from true gratitude, not through forced motivation. My relationship with the Lord has grown because my heart and soul delight in the Lord, just as my child delights in her reward.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Be Careful What You Pray For...

...or so the saying goes. I used to edit my prayers because the cliche echoed in my head. I decided though if I truly want to become who the Lord wants me to be, then I'm going to have to pray without fear. So, a few weeks ago I took a deep breath and prayed the Lord would show me my heart and He did (relentlessly, yet gently). Let me just say "yuck." Issues popped up - issues I thought I dealt with a while ago.

Let me start by saying this: I know the Lord has worked in all areas of my life. I can look back at where I once was and where I am now and see growth and maturity. But there are times when I compromise or when these issues sneak back into my life because I'm not keeping a vigilant watch. That's what I'm dealing with now. I tend to be selfish, less generous, easily angered, and so on. I know this to be true because my behavior surprised me at times when tested. For example - rebellion. I know I should be writing more, but hey, I want to do something else instead, so I will (cue the petulant child).

In Psalm 139:23-24, David writes "Search me God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (NIV) Thankfully, the Lord will work on those who want to be changed. That's me - I want to be changed. I figure the less yucky issues I have in my heart, then the more the Lord can fill my heart with Him. His ways become my ways.

Despite not liking what I saw - I am grateful. I am battling less with my self and I feel more at peace. So, are you going to be careful about what you pray for?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May you and your loved ones have a Merry Christmas! I pray you have a wonderful new year full of hope, love, and many blessings.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Slow Awakening

I want to continue a bit with the "awakening" thoughts. It's no secret that I battle with food issues, as in I love food - all kinds of food. Crispy, crunchy, gooey, creamy - I like a lot of it. But recently, some points have been brought to my attention.

Point #1: I know that unhealthy eating and lack of exercise can lead to numerous diseases and even death. I wrestle with that thought everyday. The point the Lord made to me was this - My life was bought at a price. It is worth more than the greasy slice of pizza I ate for lunch.

Point #2: At this moment, food controls me. It was hard to type that last line, but it's true. If I'm given a choice between a piece of fruit or candy, I will pick the candy. Now that I admit this I realize how ridiculous it is to have an inanimate object control me. It can't control me, but somehow I have given it power.

Point #3: The LORD has supplied me with the knowledge regarding health. Basically, I believe, any food He has created is good for me. That includes fruits, veggies, grass-fed meats, and multi-grains, all as minimally processed as possible. Now it's my choice - am I going to be wise or foolish?

Point #4: Part of my responsibility in taking care of my family is to make sure they are fed healthy meals so that they can do what they need to do everyday.

Maybe there is something in your life that is holding you hostage. I want you to know there is freedom in Christ. It may not happen overnight - it could be His plan for you to experience this journey with Him, but it will happen when you surrender completely to Jesus. I believe that's the case for me.

Let me finish with an encouraging verse: Galatians 5:1 says "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (NIV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Ephesians 5:13-15 "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible - and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said 'Wake up Sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' 15 Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise." (NIV)

Lately I've been re-thinking how I live my life - what virtues I possess and what character traits I want to instill in my children. I think the Lord is using homeschooling to open my eyes even more to His will and purpose for life (homeschooling - apparently it's not just for kids).

I will admit though, it is a struggle at times to choose to do what is right instead of what I want to do. Though, ultimately, I want to be obedient to His call, I also fight against my flesh. Okay, at this point fight may be too strong of a word. It's more like the flesh calls, I say "well..." and then run right to it; whether if it's eating that bowl of ice cream or choosing to sleep in instead of praying. Life is about choices.I will admit, I tend to make some unwise choices. At times, it's as if I'm on auto-pilot because I've made the same unwise choices so many times. But, now the Lord is opening my eyes to this very dilemma. I like the phrasing of verse 14 "Wake up Sleeper." I feel that's what I've been doing - sleeping through part of this life.

I don't want my children to have to learn the lessons of life the hard way - if possible. I mean, for example, I would prefer they learn to live a healthy, active life while they are young, so that it becomes second nature. Not when they are 50 pounds overweight and HAVE to do it because of a health crisis. I want my children to care for others and realize this world does not center around them while they are young as opposed to becoming an adult and throwing a tantrum when they don't get their own way. I am realizing more than ever that I cannot just teach these virtues, character, and lifestyle traits, but I have to model them as well. But the question becomes "How am I going to model these traits?" Am I going to continue making unwise choices and have my children learn from my poor example or am I finally going to look towards the light of Christ and choose what is right? Further down in Ephesians 5:17, Paul writes "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." Actually, I like the Amplified version better: "Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is."

Finally, Proverbs 9:10 says "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." I'm beginning to understand that some choices cannot be made while half asleep. I must ask myself "Is this what the Lord wants me to do? Is this the best use of the time He has given me?" It is time to stop sleepwalking.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Knowing God

"The people who know their God shall be strong and do great things." Daniel 11:32b (TLB)

This is the verse referenced on my artsy, scripture calendar for October. It is a simple, matter-of-fact statement, but at the same time it's powerful. After reading the context of the verse, it holds even more power and yes, conviction.

At first, I believed this verse to mean that if I have faith in the Lord then I can be strong and do great things. While this may be true, this is not the context of the verse. At the time, this was written as a prophecy regarding the future of Israel. It spoke of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his attack on Jerusalem. When he attacked, he desecrated the temple by sacrificing pigs on an altar he built for Zeus inside the temple. Here is verse 32 (the entire verse): "He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God will stand firm and take action." (ESV) Antiochus was able to flatter some people away from the covenant, but the ones who truly loved God and knew God, chose to stand firm in their beliefs and convictions while others took action (the Maccabees).

These people were choosing death instead of desecrating their bodies or abandoning their beliefs because they knew God. They understood his Holiness and how He set them apart. They would rather die than eat unclean pork (at least in one example I read) because they knew this would separate them from the Lord.

Well, once I understood the verse, I wondered how many times have I not stood firm against the enemy? How many times have I chosen to abuse His temple for my selfish wants? How many times have I been seduced by flattery ("Go ahead, you've earned it...")?

Once again, the point has been made - my relationship with the Lord requires and deserves a deeper understanding of Him, which only He can reveal to me. As James 4:8 says "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you..." (ESV)