Saturday, October 10, 2015

twisting verses...

I was greeted a couple of mornings ago by a word of warning from my sister. Her post went right along with a series of sermons a friend from high school--a pastor now--has been giving at his church lately. In Sarah's own words (and yes, I got her permission first!): "I believe there is danger in taking a verse out of context. Every verse was put in its place for a reason, picked by God himself. If you remove that verse and use it to fit your own purpose you have changed the very essence of it."
by Sarah

It seems like such a common thing lately--people pick and choose which verses they want to put on display for one reason or another. I guess that's been happening since the Scriptures were first written down, but is sure seems prevalent now. No matter which side of an issue someone is on, it seems like they twist verses to show how Jesus would be on their side.

People dismiss the verses that make them uncomfortable or that don't fit in line with the point they are truing to make. They say, "Oh, times have changed so much since then. That just doesn't pertain today--it's too old fashioned."

The thing is, we're told in Hebrews 13:8 that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." We're also told in John that Jesus is the Word of God. That means that the Word of God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It doesn't change with the times because Jesus doesn't change with the times. God is timeless, and therefore so is His Word. And as it says in II Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

All scripture, not just the verses we want to pick and choose so that we can make a point. That means the verses we want to shout from the mountaintops and the verses that make us cringe in shame because they remind us of our own personal failures. In Jesus's own words, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)

We have to be careful, especially in this world that is desperate for some small glimpse of the truth. We need to speak truth, but we need to make sure that we are speaking the whole truth. Partial truths are dangerous, partly because it is so easy to make them sound however we want them to. Our world is longing for the truth, even though most people don't realize it. As followers of Christ, we are called to speak the truth and to do so in love. We need to draw others to Christ, and then let Him change their hearts. It's important to remember that we are all sinners saved by grace, and none of us are worthy of the gift we've been given.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

hiding in the dark...a confession

I have to confess something to you.

I've been a wimp lately.

I've been turning the news off most of the time. because I'm tired of listening to it. I'm tired of hearing about heartbreak, wars, and death. I' tired of hearing about the culture wars going on right now. I'm tired of hearing politicians bash each other (and we're still over a year away from the election--good grief!). I'm tired of evil, and of people trying to pass evil off as good. I've stopped following people on facebook simply because I was frustrated by what they were posting.

Basically I'm tired of all of it, and my solution has been to just ignore it.

Pop called me on it a while back--he has a tendency to do that. He doesn't do it in an obtrusive way. If you know him, you know that he has the ability to put the equivalence of a lecture into a single question. I was talking about the facebook thing and some post I didn't agree with, and he asked me what I said in response. When I said I didn't say anything, that I was tired of fights on facebook and that the person in question wouldn't change her mind anyways, it sounded wimpy even to me.

We are called to be a light for others, but we can't do that if we're hiding.

As I've looked around lately, I've seen more and more that's made me want to hide. The world is becoming an incredibly dark place. Maybe it's been that way for quite a while, The difference is, the United States used to be a place of refuge. Now, our country has joined the rest of the world in ushering in darkness.

Our "leaders" have declared that sexual immorality is not only okay, but is something to be celebrated. They've gone so far as to say that those who oppose should be prosecuted for their "bigotry".

Parents are being applauded for playing into their children's delusions and buying hormones to try to suppress their genes (I find it ironic that people are heroes for giving their kids unneeded hormones and villains for treating animals with hormones...). There are reality shows celebrating the confusion of a man and a young boy who were so insecure in their own skin that they've chosen to hide behind looking like a woman and a young girl.

When faced with the scientific proof that unborn babies being aborted are human enough to have their organs harvested, people still claim that they are not people and therefore have no rights. Some of those same people argue that chickens shouldn't be killed for food because they have rights, too!

Yes, this world is becoming an awfully dark place. It would be easy to hide--it's always easy to hide in the dark. The problem is, hiding doesn't make anything better. One day, my kids will have to navigate this world. If all they've seen me do is hide, they won't try to do anything else. They won't claim the verse, "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) if they have only seen the opposite to be true.

One day in the future, my kids may be called on to stand up and confess their belief in and reliance on God. I want them to have the strength and courage to do that, even in the face of darkness. I want them to shine so brightly that there would be no chance of them hiding.

This world is dark, and our country is quickly working to snuff out any lights still burning. The good news?

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you,
that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all."
(I John 1:5)

If we remain in Him, we don't have to hide in the dark.
So be bold.
Speak up.
Take a stand.
Let your light shine, especially now that the darkness is closing in. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

life is crazy right now...

Ahh, life... it's just downright crazy at times, isn't it? Right now, it feels like it's crazier than it has been in a long time. To be honest, there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I have to do, let alone the things I want to get done or the things I feel like I need to do to stay same (namely, writing).

Just in case anyone was wondering,  I'm teaching Math 7, Math 8, two classes of Geometry, Algebra I, and Algebra II this year. That is keeping me busier than I ever imagined possible, but I have to tell you that I'm starting to see all those kids as my own. And I have to say, my new favorite phrase is when one of the kids says, "Is that all you have to do?" after they realize that something in math isn't as hard as they had thought.

Nathan and I are also the new Junior class sponsors, which entails working a concession stand (manned by high school kids) at the home Razorback games. And yes, that's as chaotic as it sounds.

We're finally moving some boxes out of the house and into storage (since we don't have any extra space at home right now), so if you looked at our house right now you would probably wonder what tornado came through.

At times, it's pretty overwhelming.

To top it off, I've found a writing contest I would really like to enter. It's definitely not a necessity, but it feels like an opportunity I need to take advantage of because it could be such a great thing. The deadline is the end of November, though, so I'm not so sure I'm going to be able to pull it off this time. Even if I can't finish by the deadline, though, what I'm working on right now is something I feel like God is telling me to write (because it's definitely not something I want to do--I've started over more times than I can count).

On the plus side, though, it is great to be home again. We're in the middle of nowhere, which is exactly where we want to be. The kids can wander through the field or through the woods, and at night the only man-made lights are miles away. You've never seen the Milky Way until you've stood in the middle of a field at night with your head thrown back and nothing else around.

Life is crazy busy, and sometimes that makes me lose sight of how blessed I have been.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

when God doesn't seem faithful

Today is always such a strange day for me. Today marks 11 years since my brother was killed in Iraq.

11 years--more than a decade without being picked on by the guy who always told me it was his job to keep me humble and to teach me how to throw a punch.

Life has changed so much; I'm not even the same person I was the last time I saw him in person, 3 January 2004--my wedding day. I can't help but wonder what he would think about the person I am today, and I sure wish I could watch my kids play with their uncle.

There are moments in life that change you forever, moments that happen in a heartbeat yet affect your entire outlook. Sometimes those moments are so dramatic that it seems like the rest of the world should be changed, too. I think that's one of the hardest things to deal with--the fact that the rest of the world simply goes on. At times, it seems like it's going on without you.

There are lessons in everything in life, even though sometimes it takes years to grasp them. For a long time, I didn't want to even think about what I was learning from Michael's death quite simply because I didn't want to think about the fact that he was gone. My walls have slowly been coming down, though, and as they are chipped away I see glimpses.

The biggest lesson I'm still learning is that God is faithful even when it doesn't seem like it. That one's hard for me. If something appears one way in life, I tend to think that that's how it is. I'm a pretty literal, logical person most of the time, so I struggle with things that aren't that way.

When Michael was killed in that tank in Najaf, Iraq, I have to admit that it sure didn't seem like God was very faithful.

There's one of those acronyms that floated around church camps back in the late 90s: PUSH. Pray Until Something Happens. In a simplistic faith, we pray and keep praying until God does what we want Him to do. We prayed for
Michael's safety over there in Iraq. We're a praying bunch, so there were lots of prayers. Do you know what the  PUSH mindset tells you when your prayers aren't answered the way you want them to be? I must not have been praying hard enough or I must have been using the wrong words somehow or what's probably even more common, I must have done something wrong and God's not listening to my prayers.

I still don't have answers to all my questions. I haven't been given some divine revelation about God's purpose. A lot of the time, I'm still walking through life in the dark. The thing is, through it all God truly is faithful. He's in control even when I can't see it, and He's there even when I can't feel Him.

He is faithful...even when it doesn't seem like it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

road blocks I have to tell you, sometimes I really don't understand it. Just when it seems things are headed one direction, a bend in the road suddenly reveals a road block.

Sometimes a road block is an attack from the enemy, something he throws in the way to keep you from accomplishing what has been planned for you. When that's the case, it's our job to keep pushing--to find some way to break past the road block and get back on the right road. In those cases, we need to fight with everything we have to move the road block out of the way.

Other times, a road block is something God puts in the road to show you that you're headed the wrong direction. When that's the case, we have to back up and figure out where we took a wrong turn so that we can get back on track. We have to stop pushing and realize that that road is being blocked for a reason.

The problems start when you can't figure out which side created the road block.

Sometimes, no matter how often you pray for guidance, God is silent. That's not something that gets preached a lot; we all want to hear that God will answer every prayer the minute we pray it in a way we'll understand. In those times when we don't get a nice, neatly worded answer, it's hard to trust. For me, that was the word for 2015: trust. I should have known that this year would require a lot of trust when that was the word that came up back in January. That's been the case each year since I started taking part in the "one word" challenge. I guess that's been God's way of preparing me for what's to come each year, because those words (faithful, follow, do not neglect your gift, and trust) have definitely foreshadowed the year.

Right now, I don't know if all the road blocks being thrown in front of me are things I'm supposed to push past or if they are things God is putting in the way to try to get me to turn around. Honestly, I don't think I would be surprised by either one. At this point, I really don't even care which it is--I would just like to find out which it is. Until then, like David I'll remind myself:

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble. 
 Those who know Your name trust in You,
    for You, Lord, have never forsaken
those who seek You.
Psalm 9:9-10 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

a bit lost...

It seems I've been doing this a lot lately--staring at a blank piece of paper (or screen in this case) with no idea what to write.

I know I need to write. I can feel something inside me withering because the words haven't been coming lately. Every time I try to, though, I just get...lost. The words seem to be getting stuck somewhere, and I'm not sure if it's the wiring in my head, heart, or hands that keeps getting crossed. Maybe it's a mix of all three.

In all honesty, I'm at a bit of a loss right now. A loss for words, but that's not all. I feel a bit lost in general. Does that come as a surprise? It has to me, to be sure. 11 and 1/2 years into my marriage, after 2 kids and 2 degrees, and now after we've moved back "home" to the hills of Arkansas I feel a bit like I'm wandering aimlessly with no idea what direction I should be going.

You would think that after writing a devotional all about following the Way when you can't see the path, I would have that figured out for myself, but I haven't found that to be the case. Sometimes, it seems to work that way...I can teach a lesson before I've really come to terms with it myself.

This would be the time when I would normally figure out just what it was I was trying to say, but it really just isn't happening this time. Life is all crazy and things seem bent out of shape, and I can't quite wrap my head around what I should be doing or which direction I should be headed...

So instead, I'll leave you with the verse I've had on my mind a lot lately:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
~Philippians 1:27a

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

love mercy...

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
~Michah 6:8

Mercy. In the dictionary and concordance in the back of my Bible, it says mercy is forgiveness or compassion. In another sense, though, we have an opportunity to "love mercy" in a very tangible way.

If you've never heard of the Mercy House, you should hop over there and check it out. To give you the short version, the Mercy House is a place for young ladies who are about to become mothers. They move into Rehema House (Rehema=Mercy in Swahili) where they are loved by beautiful servants of God, and where they are shown that their lives and the lives of their beautiful babies are full of promise because of God's love for them. It is the result of one woman (and her family) saying yes to a crazy dream God put in her heart.

Now, though, God has opened doors that lead all over the world. Through those doors are artisans who are now being given the opportunity to support themselves and their families using the skills and talents God gave them.
About a month ago, I received a beautiful pair of earrings from artisans in India.
(Mine are just like the ones on the far right--sorry, in the move I can't really get to the right cords to connect my camera and computer to show you a real picture!) They came to my mailbox through the Fair Trade Friday Club. You can get a new pair of earrings each month, along with a trinket bag to keep them in. If the earrings one month aren't your style--or if you look at them and say, "Oh, my sister would love these!"--you can give them to someone else using the gift tag that gets added to each bag.
If you aren't an earring person, there's also an option of getting a box of goodies each month, full of beautiful things that are giving some beautiful people the chance to earn a fair wage.
I haven't started the club yet, but once I get an address (oh, the joys of moving!) I'm going to be signing up. What a beautiful way to love mercy...