When our children were young we took them to an Amish settlement in Pennsylvania and toured one of the museums about their culture. Our son tried on a boy's hat and sat in the "school room". I love that the Amish feel it's their duty to teach their children about God in addition to what they learn in their Amish schools about Him. But even more importantly, their whole community models the Christian walk by the way they conduct themselves. The rest of us have to deal with the outside influence of our modern secular society. It is more important than ever to actually train our children in the ways of the Lord and not leave it just to Sunday School teachers once a week.
Ecclesiates seems to be saying that just trying harder at what you're doing isn't going to get you anywhere if what you've been doing isn't working. Instead we must gain wisdom on how to do something in order to succeed and the way to do that is to educate ourselves. I liken it to learning to play the dulcimer. I can practice all day long, but if I don't know where to put my fingers to make the right chord for the song, it won't sound anything like the song is meant to sound.
When it comes to living a Godly life God's word is our first course of study because it contains His plan for us. I spent a year reading the entire Bible back in the 1980's. I knew I would not remember everything I read, but I figured if I could just get it all into my brain, it would be there for the Holy Spirit to draw forth when He spoke to me. In a world that runs on this very premise of data collection and retrieval (the computer) I don't understand why more Christians haven't read all of God's written word. It's a resource we dare not neglect if we're going to negotiate this world's lies and deceptions.
In John 14:1 when Jesus says he goes to prepare for me and will return to take me there when the time comes I am reminded of my own preparations for having children. First, I spent years working and saving so we'd have a downpayment to buy a townhouse with a small backyard. We were able to do this by living on Ken's income and saving mine. This also would enable me to stay home full-time with my children since we were not dependent on my income. I was preparing not only the house but the home I longed to give my children. Second, when the time finally came I prepared the bedroom for our baby and made the rest of the house safe for a toddler. Eventually we moved to a larger home and yard as we planned for more children and the more laid-back community we desired for them. I can't begin to imagine what Jesus is preparing for my homecoming!
One of the ways a dog shows he's submitting to another dog is to expose his belly. He is saying to the other dog that he is not a threat and aggression isn't necessary on the part of the other dog. This is how the handshake between men began. To extend the hand you'd use to hold your sword would show that you mean no harm. But humility is more than just an outward show of submission. It is a "modest view of oneself" that says to God that He is greater, but more importantly, I believe, allows me to call upon Him for all my needs.
In wondering how we might worship idols today since we don't tend to make golden calves anymore, I thought about the grand cathedrals man has built to the "glory of God." Perhaps they meant well, and the edifices are a thing of beauty, but I wonder if they really bring man closer to God in a permanent way or serve Him in the way that matters most to Him.
This seems to be the commandment so many Christians flaunt with impunity! I took the above photo off the projection TV our friends had set up in their barn to host an Inauguration Day party in 2009. Whether or not you agree with President Obama's policies we are called to show respect for his position as the President of our nation....yet so many Christians act as though they hate him personally by how they speak about him. If they do indeed see him as their enemy, then he should be the first on their list to love! At the same time, I am called to love these Christians because they are, indeed, enemies to Christ's message of love.
Science has proven that laughter does improve our health! Our granddaughter, when she was just 13 months, started mimicking the laughter she hears, but she doesn't need to hear others in order to laugh. She does plenty of laughing just because she's enjoying herself. Little children help remind us there is much to be joyful about in our world. I love this video on the Internet! It will help you get started laughing today. . . .
I always start my day reading scripture and devotional books then writing in my journal about what I've read.....even when on vacation. This lovely setting was in the garden of the carriage house we rented for a week in September one year on Martha's Vineyard. Seeking Him early helps me start the day off on the right foot--the one that leads me down the path He has prepared for me.
Our town dates back to the 1700's. There are still a lot of brick sidewalks in the downtown area. Some have been redone over the years, but because of the mature trees many have been pushed up by the expanding roots. I love the look of a brick walkway, but I must always be careful to watch where I'm placing my foot so that I don't stumble. Judging others is a stumbling block because it separates us from others. Any message I have about the love of God will be rejected because it is counter to my actions toward that person. Love forgives. Love does not judge.
If a cat and dog can get along so well together, why can't we? I struggled with these verses for years because I felt I WAS doing onto others as I'd want done onto me. The problem was I was expecting them to turn around and do unto me as I'd done unto them. Scripture does not need to be added to, but it sure would have helped me if the writers would have added, "but don't expect anything in return." But if you look at scripture as a whole the caveat has always been there--we are to love others unconditionally as God loves us unconditionally and as we are to love ourselves. That should be reward enough. What I tend to forget is if I do all things as unto the Lord I'll be enabled to love others unconditionally, and will be rewarded by God Himself when I hear those wonderful words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Over the years we've opened our home to our church family, friends, and family. I never dreamed I'd have a house large enough to accommodate a large number of people nor that I'd have the ability to prepare meals for them. But over the years I hosted baby showers, dinners, potlucks, and Bible studies for my church; parties for my children's school activities; wedding rehearsal parties and homecoming parties; and numerous other gatherings. I've greatly enjoyed making my home a comfortable and welcoming place for my guests. But I could not have done it without all the God has provided.
When my youngest was three he was with me as I browsed through a Christian bookstore that carried Catholic crucifixes. We being Protestants he'd never seen one before--only the empty cross. As I glanced over at him to see what he was getting into I was not prepared to see a horrified look on his little face. Then I noticed he was holding one of the crosses with the crucified Christ. At that moment his reaction made me realize how dulled I'd become to the suffering Jesus went through on the cross. I must never take for granted what Jesus went through for me. Jesus told us we must come to Him like a child......innocent and open-hearted as my little son had that day.
Being truly convinced that God loves you and only wants what's best for you.....that He works all things for good for those who love/trust Him, is the only way to follow Him. Otherwise, you will be torn in two--a wedge of unbelief, keeping you from being able to receive all that He has to give you.
I keep coming back to my children for my examples because being a mother, I felt, was a calling from God. This little guy in the middle was breach and therefore was delivered by c-section. I was perfectly willing to birth him naturally, but I found out during my labor that the hospital had a rule about breech births so I did not have to make the choice. I am glad because it turned out that the cord was wrapped around his neck twice. I had committed my God-given longing for children years before my first son was born. I truly do believe if you commit your work to the Lord that He shall be right there guiding you along the way to its completion.
Goats can be quite stubborn. Look what happens when this one crosses the board between two picnic tables and starts butting the other to move off the table. . . .
The one sitting was being stubborn about moving at first, but it turns out the other didn't even want the spot--yet he stubbornly forced the first goat to move.
In Matthew 25:31-33 Jesus says when He comes again he'll separate the sheep (his followers) from the goats (the stubborn ones who refused to believe). When it comes to God's calling me, stubbornness belongs to pride....compliancy belongs to humility. And only the humble can inherit the earth.
Bill Moran, known as the "father of modern Damascus steel knives" is shown here demonstrating how he made his world-famous knives. In scripture the analogy of iron sharpening iron comes from how a knife is sharpened. You draw the blade across the whetstone at an angle after lubricating the stone with mineral oil. I, too, need to "lubricate" any "sharpening" I'm called to do by applying love when I must admonish those who have stumbled and fallen or have left God's path for their lives.
The past several days I've been thinking about my purpose in life. Goals help us achieve our purpose. Paul talks about pressing on in order to arrive at his goal. The imagery of being in a little sail boat is a good example of how we must receive our power from the Holy Spirit, just as this little sail boat receives its power from the wind. Without God's help we cannot reach the goals He's set for us.
Paul talks about being compelled to preach and therefore he must. I liken it to having children. I felt driven to have them, and because I wanted to be the best Mom I could be I arranged my life the best I could to make that happen. This is the kind of devotion God desires from me when He gives me a task. First He gives me the ability and then helps me along the way. Whether it was being a Mom or telling others about Him, I can do all things through Christ.
My 4-day-old infant was "kissing my cheek"--his way of telling me he was hungry. I was still recovering from his cesarean birth, but you can see in my smile how much love I felt for this child. God's love is much the same. He loves us despite any pain we cause Him, and He takes delight in meeting our needs. We are enabled to love each other in this way by His love for us. He never asks us to do something that He hasn't already provided us with the means and the way to do.
We are to have the attitude of Christ--humility. Our word humility is derived from "humus" which means earth or ground. We are made from dust, return to dust and in between we are dependent on the earth. Being human and connected to earth in so many ways being humble would seem a natural way to be. In fact, I believe this was how we were made to be! But because we are given a choice (free will, since this gives it more meaning when we choose it), it often is not chosen. I think many more of us would choose it if everyone did, but to choose it when those around you don't, can often be difficult, especially in our society of "me first" in all things. Thankfully, God has given me His Holy Spirit to enable me to choose the right attitude--the one He intended and is best for me because through it (humility) I are able to receive His grace.
We are to "pray at all times in the Spirit....to that end keep alert." One of the things I love about Westies are their ears and tail! They are so expressive. Their tails and ears stand at attention when they are focusing on something. We are to keep alert--at attention--for ways we can be praying for "all the saints." God is all powerful and does not need our prayers--but we do. I need to be praying in order to stay alert and watchful for ways in which to be useful, but also so that I don't fall into a complacency that leads me away from God's best for me.
This photo of me and my newborn son in 1979 was taken in the parking lot of our townhouse community. During the 8 years we lived there I'd made friends of several of the neighbors. It was interesting to me that the neighbors I was not friends with whose garbage cans were left sitting on the curb days after the garbage had been collected annoyed me, but my friends' cans did not. That observation has always stuck with me. Today's scriptures say we are not to borrow nor lend money. I think the very practical reason is we make it more difficult to love these people if we are struggling to repay them or vice versa. I shouldn't put myself in a situation that would jeopardize my ability to love someone. My only debt to them should be love.
I suspect this lady was covering her ears because this fellow (whom I shall not grace with the title of gentleman) was probably not watching his language! Unwholesome language can be anything from cursing to gossip. A good rule of thumb is: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?