Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ladybug Justice

The other day while visiting Pilot Mountain, my youngest daughter noticed a ladybug who had found himself ensnared in the sticky threads of a spider web. The poor thing was still alive, and I hated to think about it’s 8-legged fate that was certain to unfold later that evening. So, I carefully removed the bug from his sticky situation and watched him crawl away.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, the super hero who saved one innocent lady bug’s day. But when I told my husband about my good deed, he quickly took the wind out of my sails, saying, “But, what about the spider?”

He was right! As much as I hated to see the poor ladybug suffer, wasn’t I causing the spider to suffer, too, by taking away his dinner? Worse yet, maybe it was a mommy spider who needed the nutrients to feed her babies. So, instead of feeling good about the ladybug, now I had a whole family of arachnids tugging on my conscience.

This whole situation reminded me once again, that the things I see are only a small part of a much bigger plan. It’s easy to look at the suffering, injustice and evil around us and shake our fist at the sky, wondering why a loving God would allow such treachery in the world he created. We do this because we cannot possibly see or understand the complexity or magnitude of God’s sovereign plans for this world. When we experience things that we ourselves have deemed bad or evil we cannot comprehend how these things can fit into God’s good plans, or the plans of God who is good.

However, we cannot rely on the way we perceive things as our standard for God’s righteousness! Remember these words from Isaiah 55: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Since we cannot comprehend His thoughts and His ways, we have to trust Him. And He is certainly worthy of that trust.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shalom in My Home

Being a mother of three school-aged kids who also has a full-time job is not easy. Most days I feel like one of those plate spinners that you see at the circus, running around wildly from one twirling dish to another, trying to keep them all in motion. This stressful routine often leaves me on my knees praying for peace, asking God for some “Shalom in my home”!

I realized the other day that I may be praying for the wrong thing. That’s because, when I pray for peace, I am usually really asking God to change the things outside of me that are causing me stress. But, a stress-free life is really just a fantasy isn’t it? There will always be bills to pay, missing school work, sick kids, broken cars, aging parents, deadlines at work, world crises, and arguments with spouses to deal with. It’s these things that cause us to long for heaven.

Instead, when I pray for peace, I should be asking for peace within. In the Gospels, Jesus often used the Hebrew greeting, “shalom aleichem (shah-lohm a-LAY-khem)”, which translates to “Peace be unto you” or “Peace be with you”. Now, certainly Jesus knew that the folks he spoke to would face lots of tough times down the road. So, I must believe that the kind of peace he was talking about was the peace that resides in our hearts and is available to us no matter what’s happening in our world.

The verses that always come to mind when I think about that kind of serenity are these from Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

You’ll notice those verses do not say God will answer your requests by giving you whatever you ask for. However, we are promised a gift that will serve us much better in the long run, the gift of peace. The kind of peace that endures the weather and protects us from whatever comes our way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lord, Help Me Love You the Way My Dog Loves Me

I think you can learn a lot about yourself and your relationship with God by observing your dog. I’m not the only one who feels this way. The Bellamy Brothers have a song called “Lord, help me be the man my dog thinks I am.” As any dog lover will tell you, in a dog’s eyes, you are perfect, just the way you are.

As I was enjoying some quality time with our dog, Coco, the other day, she inspired me in a different way. I realized that I need to strive to love and delight in the Lord with the depth and enthusiasm that she loves and delights in me.

For example, when I leave the house each day, she looks out our son’s bedroom window to watch me as I get in the car and drive away. She looks so sad! And, when I come home, she is already there at the door to greet me, panting, howling and wagging her tail, with excitement because I have returned and we’ve been reunited. Now, imagine if we all got that excited about our time with God?

My dog expects very little from me. I provide her with the basics… shelter, food, water and somewhat regular trips outside to use the bathroom. I have earned her complete adoration by simply rescuing her from the pound and taking care of her daily needs. And, when I do a little something extra…like give her a scrap of leftover steak, take her for a long walk or scratchher belly…no words are needed for her to express her appreciation…it’s written all over her face. It’s so easy to make her happy! I wish I was so easily and thoroughly satisfied by God’s provision of my daily bread, and so appreciative of all the extra blessings that come my way!

Yes, I could learn a lot from my pup…she models the kind of admiration described in Psalm 37:4-. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

So, if the Bellamy Brothers don’t mind, I think I’m going to write my own country song, and I’m gonna call it “Lord, Help Me Love You the Way My Dog Loves Me”.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, etc…

As you may have heard me mention before, I am adopted. Last year, I was thrilled when by biological brother, Denis, contacted me. Since then, we’ve emailed each other pretty regularly and I hope that someday soon, I’ll be able to travel to New York and meet him and his family for the first time.

It’s a bit ironic that Denis and my oldest son Andrew share the same April 5th Birthday. Since this is the first year I’ll be celebrating Denis’ birthday, I’ve decided to have a little fun. Instead of just one birthday card, I’m sending him 40. In one of the cards, I’ll write a note that I am making up for lost time and sending him a card for each year I’ve missed.

Now, obviously, all of the cards are a nice sentiment, but I realize that we can never really make up for those lost years. And, honestly, I’m OK with that. I believe that our lives unfolded exactly as they were supposed to, and that God brought us back into each other’s lives when he knew the time was just right.

Is there someone in your life that you, for whatever reason, have lost time with? My friend, please don’t let even more time go by regretting those lost years. It’s true, you’ll never get that time back, but wouldn’t it be wiser to spend your time and energy on what you can do instead of what you can’t?

You can reconnect with that person before another day is lost. You can forgive and seek forgiveness. You can celebrate the time you have now with that person and make the most of your relationship from this point forward.

If you need more encouragement, think about this. God thinks it’s important for us to seek reconciliation…listen to this verse from Matthew: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

So today, pray that God will give you the courage to take the first step to restore a broken relationship, the discernment to know when the time is right and, when needed, the grace to offer forgiveness

Thursday, March 11, 2010

There's No Such Thing as an "Easy Way Out"

When most people think about the day they were born, they imagine their mother and father at the hospital, dad anxiously pacing the floor, mom enduring the agony of labor until finally that glorious moment arrives and their precious baby is placed safely in its mothers arms. Proud grandparents, aunts and uncles, gathered around to welcome the newest member of the family.

However, when I think about the day I was born, I imagine my birthmother alone and scared as she gave birth to the baby she’d been carrying for nine months that would soon become someone else’s child. My heart breaks for her as I imagine the moment she held me and then handed me over to a social worker, believing she’d never see her child again. I can’t imagine how she must have felt when she left the hospital empty handed.

I know it was painful, but I am so thankful to my birthmother for making this choice. I learned recently that abortion was legalized in the state where I was born three years before my birth. I realize at that an abortion could have offered her a seemingly less complicated alternative…at least less complicated than carrying and delivering a baby, then trying to get back to life as usual. I know her choice was a difficult one. I know she took the narrow path, and I owe my very existence to her.

I once heard a preacher say that when we are faced with a really difficult decision, Satan often presents us with a seemingly easy alternative. The only catch is that this easy option always requires a moral compromise. Satan sees our indecision as an opportunity to get a foothold, to lead us away from God and down a path that leads to destruction. If you’re facing a tough choice today, pray that God will direct you down the right path, even if it’s the choice that is more difficult. Finally, remember and be encouraged by these words:

1 Peter 5:8-9 (The Message)
Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Are You in a Spiritual Recession?

Rising unemployment rates, a volatile stock market, low consumer spending and ridiculously high gas prices are just a few of the signs that have led many experts to believe that our nation’s economy is headed into a recession. Simply put, a recession is a period of slow economic growth that usually lasts anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The US Economy experiences pretty regular intervals of growth and then decline, so recessionary periods are nearly inevitable…it follows the whole “what goes up must come down” theory. Overall, our country has been blessed with long term prosperity unlike any other. That’s because, although we have experienced periods of decline, there have been many more times of growth.

I think that, in most cases, the same can be said for our spiritual growth as well. Once you become a Christian, your faith will most likely have times when it grows and times when it recedes. And, just as it is important for officials to keep a watch on the economy to see how it’s doing, we need to know the signs that our sprits are headed into a recession. Dr. David Jeremiah¹ suggests looking at it this way… if you were asked to give a testimony about the Lord’s work in your life and your ministry for Him, you should have some things to talk about that have happened within the past 2 weeks. If you don’t, your faith is probably not in a period of growth.

Fortunately, just like there are things the government can do to try to turn around a shrinking economy; you can take measures to revive a withering spirit. Start by praying that God will open your eyes to his presence. Ask him to point out any sin in your life that you may be currently unaware of. Commit to spend time regularly in his word. And, if you are not regularly attending church, now is the time to find a church home…fellowship and worship with other believers is so important for a healthy faith. Listen to the advice in 1 Timothy 4:15 “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Finally, don’t be discouraged when you find that your faith has been stagnant for a while. God hasn’t gone anywhere…he’s ready and waiting for you to recommit and refocus.


1. Dr. David Jeremiah, “Take the Road Test,” Turning Points Magazine and Devotional (August 2007): 24

Monday, March 8, 2010

Homework Hangups

My kids and I would agree that our least favorite thing about the school year is homework. It seems that we cannot get through a weekday afternoon without a homework meltdown. What frustrates me most is when one of the kids asks for help and then argues with me about the advice I give. It might go something like this…

(Kid) “Mom, why do I keep getting this subtraction problem wrong?”

(Me) “You need to write it out, don’t try to do it in your head.”

(Kid) “I don’t want to write it out!!! It will take too long. My hand is tired. I HATE HOMEWORK!!!!”


Sound familiar? I was thinking about how much it bothers me when my kids do this to me, and then I realized that I do the same thing to my dad. My heavenly Dad, that is! Oh, the times that I have found myself with a problem I couldn’t solve, asked God to help me with it and then argued with Him about what he told me to do. “But, God…that’s too hard, it will take too long, can’t you just fix it for me?” I can only imagine what God is thinking when I tell Him…the creator of heaven and earth, the author of my life…that His answer is just not going to work for me. I’m just thankful that He is far more patient and gracious with me than I am with my kids. I’m also thankful that, unlike my kids with their math homework, I have the answer key for my problems-the Bible. Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

So, please pray for me (and my kids) as we wrap up another school year. And let’s pray for each other as we remember not only to ask for God’s help with our problems, but that we will also be wise enough to accept his answers even when they aren’t exactly what we wanted to hear.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Guaranteed Admission

Have you ever been somewhere like an amusement park or a festival where you had to wear a special bracelet or get a stamp as proof of your admission? While a lot more convenient than having to keep up with a ticket stub, this practice presents a bit of a challenge for my family. My daughter, Carley, doesn’t like to be stamped or stickered or tagged in any way. In order to convince her to cooperate, I have to explain to her that she can’t go in and have fun until she consents to being marked.

As Christians, we bear a seal that permits our admission into the kingdom of heaven. Listen to these verses from Ephesians 1:13&14 “And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him”

When we become Christians we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who serves as our guide, our helper, a source of strength and a seal which identifies us as children of God. Since this seal is invisible to human eyes, how do we know whether or not we bear it? The Bible tells us that if we are living according to the spirit, the fruit we bear will serve as evidence. Galatians 5:22-25 tells us, specifically, what a spirit-filled life looks like. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

We’re still human, so we can’t expect to bear this fruit every moment of every day. However, once we accept Jesus and inherit the Holy Spirit there ought to be evidence of this inheritance in our attitudes and behaviors. We won’t get it right all of the time, but there should be a longing in our hearts to please God…our father and our King who has marked us with his seal.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brand Identity

I grew up in a family of smokers. Dad was a Camel man who eventually switched to Winston. Mom smokes whatever is cheapest now, but I remember her smoking the True brand for the longest time. Grandma smoked Carlton, Aunt Laurie Marlboro and Aunt Babs smoked Eve Lights. I wondered the other day, why on earth is this one fact, each person's preferred smoke, cemented so firmly in my head?

I think the answer to that question has something to do with consistency. Take my dad, for example. He and I shared 22 years worth of experiences with each other. The number of conversations we have shared is countless. In some of those talks, he advised me to never start smoking, because once you do, it's very hard to quit. Yet, what I can remember even more clearly is that pack of cigarettes that was always in his front shirt pocket, how he could work on a car or bait a fish hook using both hands while his cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth. Eyes squinting because of the sting, he could even talk out of the other corner of his mouth at the same time.

So, it's probably no surprise that when I was a teenager I picked up the habit as well. Thankfully, I eventually quit. But, the message here is, despite the warnings about smoking that each one of these family members gave me, what they did made a much deeper impression on me than what they said.

With this in mind, I think it's very important that we ask ourselves what it is that we do that is so regular, so consistent that the impression we create in our children is deeper than the impact of our words. Obviously, we'll never be perfect, not even close. But it is helpful for our children to hear us admit our shortcomings and to see our attempts at improvement.

Let's pray that God will help us to see and eliminate behaviors that could be making an unhealthy impression. Also, ask Him to make clear the things we are doing that have a positive impact. Finally, let's ask God to help us lead our children by example, with words and actions that match.