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Posted on Apr 24, 2013 in Devotional, Parenting | 11 comments

Too Much Love?

Too Much Love?

 

ImageZephaniah 3:17 (NIV) – The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

The love I have for my daughter has twisted me up and laid me bare.  The years of lonely waiting have been replaced with intimacy and pleasure.  It’s the purest form of joy I’ve ever known, and it brings with it dark and brooding fears.  My love for her tends to burst out of me in the form of singing, reminding me of the reference in the Bible to God singing over us.  I have to laugh at times, thinking my life is the closest thing to a musical I’ve ever known.  I start to tell her things and song lyrics from years past come to mind.  Suddenly I’m making up new words that apply to her and our situation and we’re giggling and I’m wiping up drool and life couldn’t be more wonderful.

I talk to her all day long; I tell her what I’m doing and let her know I’m interested in her.  Today I taught her how to deal with peppers, showing her the colors and letting her smell and touch them, explaining how a food processor works.  I know it’s ridiculous and she won’t be able to remember anything about it, but I figure if I do this kind of thing often enough it will start to sink in.  Maybe one day she’ll know her colors and not be able to say how she learned them, but it seems like something she just always knew.

I’ve heard other people around us observe with surprise how much I interact with her and how alert she is.  I’m not sure if they’re happy about it or think I’m ridiculous.  Their comments have given me pause.  Am I too interactive with her?  Am I too focused on her?  Should I put her down during “happy-awake time” and get some work done, letting her entertain herself with toys and those fascinating hands she can’t stop admiring?  She sleeps during the day and I’m able to get work done then.  I’m not living in a messy house with a starving husband.  We are well-fed, the house is fairly clean, and my chores are close to done.  There are times when I put her down to finish some time-sensitive task.  She entertains herself well during those times.  But why would I miss out on the best times with her simply because she is content enough to be ignored?  It’s so much fun to interact with her, to see her smile, to hear her laughter, and to cover her in kisses.  Why would I give that up simply to have a house with zero dust?

But that fear creeps in, wiggling around inside and forcing me to stop and deal with it.  Am I spoiling her?  Will it be difficult for her to adjust if other children come along because she suddenly doesn’t have my full attention?  And the most insidious thought of all – am I making her into a god?  Giving up my worship of Jehovah to adore her and focus my attention on the gift rather than the Giver?

That last one gives me pause.  It is so close to a truth that it almost causes me to put her down, walk away, and pick up my Bible to pray.  That sounds like a godly thing to do, right?

But it is such a lie. 

The truth that rings in my heart and sets me free to love and adore this precious child is that my adoration of her, my focus on her, is a beautiful extension of my love and adoration for my God who gave her to me.  He blessed me with the most precious gift.  He didn’t give me this gift to leave in a corner and ignore, just to be sure I don’t overdo it.  How is that pleasing to Him?

My care for my daughter is an extension of my gratitude and thanksgiving to my God who lovingly placed her in my arms.  I sing over her the way I imagine He sings over me.  I find delight in her the way I imagine He finds delight in me.  I’ve read my Bible faithfully for years, studied it and poured over it’s passages.  I’ve committed them to memory and formed my life around it.  I love the words in The Book.  But now is not the time to pour over the words, but the time to apply them, to say them aloud, to teach them to someone else.  And it is the principles in The Book that I am to teach.  What does it say to this small and vulnerable child when she cannot get my attention because I’m studying a book?  I’ve studied The Book and now I will pass it on to her.  I’ll quote Scripture to her as it applies to our lives.  I’ll pray over her.  I’ll tell her stories from the Bible.  It has become so much more than cold words on a page.  In our home, it is breath and life and joy, structure and hope and love.

Of course I haven’t abandoned my study of the Bible.  I lead a Bible study and feed my own soul from the words I discover there.  It is so much more than a story to be read once, memorized, and filed away.  The Word of God is powerful and life-altering.  I love pouring over it, finding hidden treasure there that I missed in previous readings, considering the way the words apply to my life today in different ways than other days because my circumstances have changed.  But I’m in a time in my life where I don’t need to be a scholar.  I need to be a teacher.

There will come a day when my sweet Eliana won’t have my full attention.  She won’t need it either.  Those first few weeks of her life when I was healing and she was dealing with the shock of life outside the womb, I held her as much as possible.  I stared at her face for hours.  I knew that level of attention was impossible to sustain, but for those weeks I enjoyed every moment of it and soaked in her precious newness.  Then the day came when I realized we all slept better when she was in her crib, and so she began to sleep away from me. 

And then the day came that she didn’t need to nurse every few hours and she slept away from me for longer periods of time.  It’s a natural process of letting go.  Soon she won’t want constant face-to-face contact with me when she’s awake.  She’ll have a world to explore and will be busy checking everything out.  Toys and books and kitchen cabinets will demand her attention and I’ll be ready for the expansion of her world beyond me.

But for today, her chubby little knees are learning to lock into place and hold her in a standing position.  I want to feel my heart soar as I see the proud delight on her face as she grows in strength and accomplishes this new milestone.  I want to marvel up close at the strength in her neck as she holds her head up.  I want to feel the softest cheeks as I kiss them, smell the sweetness of her head, and hear her laughter when I tickle her tummy.  I want to listen as she babbles and coos, telling me her stories and trying to match my tones with hers.  I feel like I was given a back-stage pass to the most popular show in the world and I’m not going to stand aloof in the back of the auditorium, too cool to eagerly go backstage and meet the band.  I’m going to enjoy the intimacy that is the privilege of being a mother. 

And as I raise her little hands and say, “So big!”, my heart is raised to my God who has given me so many reasons to thank Him.  Each moment I spend adoring her is a moment my heart worships.  There is no way I could love her too much. 

For this child I prayed and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. – I Sam 1:27

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Posted on Mar 21, 2012 in Wisdom | 2 comments

Blogging Philosophy

Blogging Philosophy

I’ve been trying to work ahead on my blog, writing a few postings at a time, but exercising patience to post them is challenging.  I’d rather post a flurry of entries as I feel inspired, then be silent until inspiration hits again.  They say that isn’t good for blog-business though, so I’m trying out this patience thing.

The Farm in March after unusually warm weather

As I write, I’ve been thinking about what I want to post and how I want this blog to be.  What parts of life should I emphasize?  And why does anyone care about me?  There’s only one answer I can come up with…  People respond because I’m willing to talk about things that many of us face, things that few of us are willing to share publicly, so that’s what I should write about.  Why are we so insistent upon privacy?

My favorite author, Madeline L’Engle, writes that we’re obsessed with privacy because we’re afraid.  We fear if others truly know us, understand the depths of who we are, they won’t like us.  And we really want to be liked, so we hide away what we’re ashamed of, what brings us pain, even what we appreciate (in case someone else doesn’t appreciate it), and we try to put forward an image of ourselves that we think others will find attractive.  Then we can’t figure out why we don’t have meaningful, fulfilling relationships with others.  We can’t figure out why we’re not happy.  We think no one “gets us”.  But who have we allowed in?  Even the Bible tells stories about its main characters caught in adultery, murder, lying, and more.  I’ve decided I would rather be genuinely loved for who I really am than have hundreds of admirers who like who I think I’m supposed to be.

Of course, some things are private and should be.  All the world doesn’t need to know every detail of my life and it would be dishonoring to those around me to share everything.  So the question becomes, what are appropriate boundaries?

It would be easy to write a fluffy little blog that only shows the good side of my life.  I could tell you the highlights, but if you’re anything like me, you’d soon be bored, maybe a little jealous, and move on to read about someone more interesting.  As a newlywed, I must consider the feelings of my husband and family as well.  I need to find a way to share about struggles without being disrespectful or dishonoring to them.

So I will begin.  I can’t promise to get it all right.  There may be times I over-share and later regret it, may have to pull back and share less.  There may be times I gloss over issues that really could be looked at more deeply.  But I’ll plunge ahead, learn as I go, and hopefully you will find it something worth reading.  My ultimate goal is to point to Christ, who forgives our many flaws and loves us so much that I want to do all I can to be like Him.  Along the way, I appreciate and welcome your feedback.

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Posted on Apr 9, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 8 comments

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

It’s been hard to know what to post recently.  Some of the things I’ve been going through don’t seem like things that need to be blasted on the internet for all to see…  Some things are deeply personal and too precious for publication. 

I hope the look on my face says it all.  I am happy.  I am full of peace.  God is good and He is blessing me in some wonderful ways. 

I looked at some pictures on Facebook tonight of a high school classmate.  She is beautiful; was a beauty queen many times over.  She married a handsome, successful man and they have lovely children.  It appears that they have everything anyone could want.  But the look in her eyes is far from happy.  She is smiling, she is wearing clothes that flatter her surgically enhanced figure, but there is not one speck of joy in her vacant eyes.  It made me sad. 

I wish I knew how to share this joy I have found with everyone.

I have written this before, but I will do it again.  This joy is only found in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can have that relationship by getting to know Him through His Word:  Scripture, The Bible.  If you don’t like to read, listen to an audio-version of it.  Fill yourself up with God’s Word, spend time in prayer, talk about what you’ve read with others, think about it, write about it, study it.  Get involved in a Bible study with other believers, find a good church you enjoy going to and get involved, find creative ways to express your love for the Lord – but more than all of those things, learn His Word.  There is no substitute.  Spending time with God is the only way to have an intimate relationship with Him. 

I know it sounds boring, tedious, and time-consuming.  We don’t want to be dorks who can’t talk about anything else and start wearing our pants really high on our waists.  I get it.  I felt that way myself in spite of the fact that I was living my life in service to Him as a committed Christian.  I prayed and asked God to give me a love for His Word, and amazingly He did it.  Everything has changed now.   I’m even wearing my pants really high on my waist.  (So that’s not true, but you all let me know if I start looking like a dork, okay?)

Loving God isn’t easy because it takes work, just like being in human relationships takes work.  But It is worth it.  I promise.  Pick up a One-Year Bible and join along with me.  If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear from you. 

Jesus saves and He makes all things new.

*Photographer:  Leslie Coelho

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Posted on Dec 31, 2009 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 0 comments

The Power of The Word

The Power of The Word

This is the text for the sermon I preached on Sunday, December 27th, at North Greenville Christian Fellowship in Greenville, SC.  I would love to hear your feedback on the thoughts presented here.  Happy New Year!

John 1 (Contemporary English Version)

 1In the beginning was the one who is called THE WORD.  THE WORD was with God and was truly God.  2From the very beginning THE WORD was with God.  3And with this Word, God created all things.  Nothing was made without THE WORD.  Everything that was created 4received its life from him, and his life gave light to everyone.  5The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out…  9The true light that shines on everyone was coming into the world.  10THE WORD was in the world, but no one knew him, though God had made the world with his WORD.  11He came into his own world, but his own nation did not welcome him.  12Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him.  So he gave them the right to be the children of God.  13They were not God’s children by nature or because of any human desires.  God himself was the one who made them his children.  14THE WORD became a human being (the Christmas story – the birth of Jesus is when THE WORD became a human being, flesh and blood) and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.  From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us. 

We just celebrated Christmas – the birthday of Jesus – the one whom John calls THE WORD.  God Himself came into the world and became a human being.  He did this incredible thing so that we could know Him and recognize how well He knows us. 

One of the main reasons all the world stops to celebrate the miraculous birth of Jesus is because the Creator of the universe left His throne in heaven and came to earth to live with us and show Himself to us clearly.  He wanted us to know Him.  He wanted us to understand Him.  He wanted us to be able to trust Him fully.  And He came to redeem us from the curse of sin and death and give us abundant life.  What a gift!

I’ve been thinking about what it means that Jesus is called THE WORD in John. 

Genesis 1:3 is the first time we read in Scripture about anything related to THE WORD.  “And God SAID, ‘Let there be light; and there was light.’”  The entire first chapter of the first book in the Bible is full of “God said”s – 10 of them actually.  God didn’t create our world through sweat and labor.  He used THE WORD to speak it into existence. 

Throughout the Old Testament we read that God spoke to His servants.  So if THE WORD of God is Jesus, then we were introduced to Jesus in the first chapter of the Bible. 

All of God’s WORDS since the creation of the earth were Jesus.  When Jesus was born to Mary as a newborn baby, He was the physical manifestation of all THE WORDs God had spoken to us.  His physical body, His soul, His mind – they were all a reflection of THE WORD of God. 

Jesus was perfect because He was the law of God, He was the 10 commandments, He was the prophecies, He was the warnings, and He was incapable of contradicting Himself.  What we celebrate at Christmas each year is the beauty of that concept; the amazing, supernatural, mind-boggling joy of the day God became human and allowed two other human beings to take care of Him.  What a concept! 

We give gifts to one another to remind ourselves that gifts were given to Jesus by the wise men.  We give gifts to one another to remind ourselves that Jesus was the ultimate gift of God.  We give gifts to one another to remind ourselves that life is more than just achieving, getting, grasping, and receiving things from others.  One of the most important things we can do in life is give to one another:  to put others first the way that God put our needs above His own.  We give gifts to one another to show our appreciation that they are in our lives.  And we receive gifts as a symbolic act of receiving the gift of God in the form of baby Jesus.  It is a very spiritual, symbolic thing, this giving and receiving of gifts. 

It’s possible that the greatest gift we can give to one another are our own words – expressing the things we are thankful for in one another, showering each other with blessings, and saying prayers for each other for the coming year.  Our words can also be a symbolic, spiritual gift that reflects Christ to others. 

The New Testament is full of the actual words that Jesus spoke when He was on earth.  His words are quoted, His words are explained, His words used as a basis for providing direction and correction to the new churches formed in worship of Him.  The words of Jesus – and the records that we have of those words, are vitally important.  What a gift and a blessing we have to have written words that express who Jesus was, what He said, and what He did!  Because of His word, Scripture, we are capable of knowing Jesus Christ personally and intimately. 

The Bible is more than just words on a page, stories, thoughts, and so forth.  The Bible is full of wisdom and truth that we can interact with and that can speak to us personally on a daily basis in the middle of whatever situation we’re facing.  THE WORD is Jesus Christ and He is alive, so His spirit speaks to us through the words on these pages. 

The New Testament is full of the words spoken by Jesus when He became a human being and lived on the earth.  But the Old Testament is THE WORD of God as well.  The Old Testament is just as important to us as the New Testament because it reveals the character of God. 

Hebrews 4:12 says,
For THE WORD of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

What that means is that our motives, our thoughts, even when they might not be clear to us ourselves, are known to God.  And His word, Scripture, is living and powerful enough to cut us to the quick when we’re out of line.  THE WORD of God keeps us on the right path and shows us when our motives or thoughts are impure.  It gets right to the point and challenges us to become more like Christ.

I know that may not sound very exciting.  I mean, who wants to be cut to the quick?  Who wants to be pierced by a two-edged sword?  Um, no thank you! 

However, I think there is a time when all of us actually do want that piercing.  A time when we’re actually willing to endure pain in order to achieve the results we desperately need.

Think about it for a minute.  Is there anything in your life now, or in your past, that you wish you could be free from?  It might have been with you for as long as you can remember, like someone who has always battled depression.  It might be something that started off fairly innocently, a fun little thing you decided to try because it seemed pretty harmless, but somehow it took over your life and changed from a minor indiscretion into a monster trying to eat you alive.  Maybe it’s not a monster, but it still controls a part of your life and scares you a little sometimes and you wonder how to get free.  These things can be as simple as debt or credit problems, as frustrating as an addiction to prescription pain pills that you take for legitimate pain, or as potentially life-shattering as an extramarital affair or an addiction to alcohol.

According to Scripture, THE WORD of God is the thing that can set us free.  It works like the scalpel of a surgeon, cutting out the diseased parts and helping us to heal. 

Last year around this time, my church asked me to write some small group curriculum that would be used to prepare the hearts of the people for the day of Pentecost.  I work in a Pentecostal church, so this seemed like a reasonable request.  To my embarrassment, I had to look up Pentecost to see what it was.  I had never really heard the story that I knew so well referred to as “the day of Pentecost.”  Or if I had, it hadn’t registered with me.  The Day of Pentecost is the day that the disciples received the promise of the Holy Spirit that Jesus, right before He ascended into heaven, had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for.  It’s the day that the tongues like fire appeared on their heads and they began to speak in other languages.  Our church was having a special speaker come and wanted everyone’s hearts to be prepared to hear the special message.

I believe the task of writing that curriculum was a gift from God to me.  As I studied and wrote, I was reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, to cast out demons, to know things that we humanly have no way of knowing, and more.  I got excited about it.  One of the assignments I gave the participants who went through the study was to ask God for a new or a fresh anointing from the Holy Spirit.  I did the same myself.  Even though I’m a minister, I found myself really struggling to read the Bible on a regular basis.  I prayed a lot but I was only reading the Bible for my own personal devotional time sporadically.  Dad had taught me to read the Bible daily and write in a journal about what I had learned, and I had done that a lot over the years, but much of the time it had seemed like a chore and I felt extremely guilty if I didn’t do it.  During the course of that study, I repeatedly prayed and asked God to give me a love for His Word, a love for reading the Bible and studying Scripture.  Honestly, I really didn’t have much hope that it would happen.  Reading the Bible to me was a little like exercising – I liked the results, but it was what I did because I knew it was good for me rather than because I enjoyed it. 

Then an amazing thing happened.  I heard a friend talking about a reading schedule for the Bible that included a lot of daily reading – and OT reading, a NT reading, a Psalm, and a Gospel reading:  every day.  He loved it and was getting a lot out of it.  I decided to give it a try.  It took me a few weeks to really get into it, but soon I found myself waking up in the morning with the thought that I didn’t want to over sleep and miss my time of reading Scripture.  I began to love it and to feel like reading in the morning wasn’t enough.  I needed to read the Bible before I went to bed at night too.  This was not like me at all.  God had answered my prayer and I became someone who actually enjoys reading the Bible on a daily basis.  I didn’t think it was possible, but God did it. 

I found that reading that much Scripture every day changed a lot for me.  Instead of focusing on my problems, my short-comings and fears, I was focused on God and had hope that He would take care of my problems.  I had a new hope that if I asked Him, He would help me handle my short-comings and fears.  I realized it would take major effort to be worried about how my life would turn out when I was reading 2-4 psalms every day.  David could get down on his enemies, but he was completely sure that God would rescue him from his problems and writes that often.  To read the psalms daily is to infuse your life with praise of God and hope that He will work everything out in His timing and it will be for the best. 

I have found a new sense of hope for my future.  I’ve found a new trust in God to take care of me.  I’ve been set free from problems I thought would never go away.  God hasn’t snapped His fingers and made all my dreams come true, but He’s helping me as I do some hard work to set things right that I let get way out of hand.  Reading God’s word daily has forced me to repent and confess sins I did not want to talk to anyone about.  Reading God’s word daily has given me strength and hope.  It has changed me in ways that I can’t even explain, but I hope will eventually become obvious to all who know me. 

All this has happened in my life because I asked God to help me love HIS WORD.  Basically, I asked Him to help me love Jesus more.  I’d been a Christian all my life, I was working as a minister in a church, but I didn’t understand how much deeper my relationship with God could be.  I just didn’t understand it, even though others had told me.  I thought my relationship with God was fine, even good.  But now I know what good is and I’m so thankful.

At Christmas we celebrate Christ’s birth.  We celebrate the fact that God loved us so much that He was willing to limit Himself and become a human being.  He became a human being so we could know Him. 

I hope that you’ll consider taking this opportunity to know Christ, to really know God and understand who He is and love Him for it.  God is more than a heavenly being who wants to be sure we don’t break the 10 commandments and expects us to live a good life.  He wants to talk to us, to share Himself with us.  He wants to be our friend, to be the one who sets us free.  Yes, He is God and God is our Savior, our Judge, our Creator, and all of those big things that tend to cause us to observe Him from a distance.  But if you can imagine the best friend possible, the one person who can totally and completely accept you and love you, that person, that friend, can be God. 

He came to earth to show us that friendship, that relationship.  He was a friend to each of the 12 disciples.  He was a brother, a son, an employee, a public speaker, a teacher. He can be those things to us. 

It’s my prayer this morning that you will consider allowing the Christ who came to this earth as a baby and who grew up here, lived, laughed, and made friends before He died, to become your friend.  If you have not asked Him to forgive you for your sins and take over your life, I hope that you’ll do that today.  If you’re already a Christian but you don’t feel like God is your friend, then I hope you’ll consider starting off 2010 with this prayer or one like it. 

Lord, help me to love Your word.  Help me to get to know You through it and to understand who You are and how to be more like You.  Set me free from the things that are weighing me down, the things that I feel stuck in.  I want to know You more.  Please show me how to be Your friend.  Give me the strength to do the things I need to do.  Help me, God.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Posted on Sep 30, 2009 in Before Marriage Blog, Just Goofing Around | 10 comments

People vs. Peoples

What is the difference in the definition of “people” and “peoples”?  When I was in grammar school, I learned that the singular form of the word was “person” and the plural was “people”.  But suddenly, as an adult, I’m seeing professional publications all over the place with the word “peoples” in it.  Like the word “people” isn’t quite plural enough any more, we have to add an “s” to the end of it.

I did a little research and discovered that the dictionary allows for an “s” on the end of the word if it refers to an entire community of people, like “the Aboriginal peoples.”  But tell me, doesn’t it mean exactly the same thing if it says “the Aboriginal people”?

This probably is particularly bugging me because the Bible translation I’ve been using recently (English Standard Version) constantly refers to people as peoples.  Grrr….  And it’s THE BIBLE, so it can’t be wrong, can it?  Well, I don’t think the Bible is wrong, just the editors who decided to put an “s” on the end of all references to people in it.  Even if the editors are adhering to the principle above, they’re still getting it wrong.  When David writes in the Psalms about “all people”, he’s referring to everyone – not a particular group of people, yet they consistently write “all peoples”.

I maintain that the word “peoples” is not really a word and all use of is should cease and desist now.

Now that I’m writing about it, the word just looks weird to me.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?

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