There's a new blog reader out there in the world which makes it easier for you to gather all your favorite blogs together and read in one feel swoop... or two or three, if you're like me and follow a lot of blogs and it takes a few tries to get through them all.
I mean it. A lot. And I bet you didn't know that there was a way to read all your favorite blogs together, did you?
I'm fancy that way.
It's called Bloglovin', and in order for me to claim my blog they require a short blog post asking all my readers to follow me over there. It's for me to draw more readers, and for you to use their service.
Anyway, click below if you'd like to learn more about Bloglovin', or if you really just like clicking things.
Thanks for playing!
Follow my blog with Bloglovin
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Memorial Day. The last day of school. The end of June. The Fourth of July. The heat of August. Labor Day. The first day of school.
Summer goes by faster than the other seasons. Soon we will see ads for Back-To-School sales. Time flies by. When you blink, summer’s over and fall is here.
What happens in the blazing haze of summer? These are the longest days of the year. Why do they whiz by so fast?
During summer we always look forward to something. Days are spent getting ready for baseball and basketball games, dance recitals, visits with extended family, amusement parks, cookouts, beach vacations, camp – all packed into a ten-week period. All are fun. Off times are filled with TV, swimming, movies. Schedules lapse, eating habits shift – ice cream outings are more frequent – and we stay up later. Everything about life screams SUMMER!
The school year carries our family along on a wave of scheduled activities and work priorities. From September to Mid-June, each day has a plan; each evening, too. When summer comes along, school year activities shift to summer ones. Somewhere in the middle, I get lost, flailing. I can’t seem to get a grip on the days, and many nights I go to sleep wondering where the time went. Keeping an eye on the clock is no help; the hours still escape. I can’t slow the days, no matter how I try. Every attempt at control dissolves. Half-hearted efforts to mark the time fizzle out.
Summer, a time when we should slow down to enjoy the life that God gave us, has become a time where we pack as much stuff in as we do the rest of the year. Activities don’t end, but my choices could be made more intentionally. This fast and free time is doing nothing to strengthen my faith, because I am doing less work on my faith. I read the Bible less, I pray less, I attend church less.
But I am God’s child and he will not let me wander aimlessly. Even though I struggle, he works in me and through me, despite my confusion.
The temptations of summer are attractive, and I allow them to blur my focus on God and my faith. It is during this shift in daily activities that I need to focus on him more, yet I stray further and further with every hot day that passes. By the time fall comes around I slide into home, feeling so far from where I was ten weeks before.
The best defense for spiritual flailing is to read, study, and pray the word of God into our hearts. When we do this, we are quicker to call on the Lord in everyday situations at any time of the year. God is always with me, but am I always with him? This is the question that I’m asking myself this summer.
For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16 (NLT)
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Since my Sunday School years, I have been taught to memorize Bible verses.
Memorize this one for when you’re feeling lonely. Memorize that one for when you need encouragement. This one’s to remind you where you came from; that one’s to remind you where you’re going. Stay strong – stay in the Word! Hold God’s words dear to your heart; house them deep inside and he will never leave you. If you’re ever in prison you can count on these words to carry you through. Haven’t you ever heard the stories of the persecuted hanging onto Scripture as if their very lives depended on it?
Because they did. And yours does too. Quick! Memorize before you’re in a situation where all you have to subsist on is your memory of the Bible! What, you haven’t memorized any Bible verses?
What kind of Christian doesn’t memorize Scripture?
All you have to do is meditate. Sit with God’s word for a few minutes or hours. Eventually it will become part of your soul and when you are prompted, you will be amaze everyone with your steel-trap of a mind.
Okay. Um, “The Lord Is My Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures… he does something something about water – leads me beside the cool streams – and then he soothes… my… soul? I am walking through the valley of the death. Okay, that’s wrong. How about this one: Love God with all your mind and all your heart and all your soul and every fiber of your being. No. Not right. How about: I can do all things through God – no, Christ – who supports me. No, wait. Strengthens me. Boom. Got one right. Philippians 4:13. Right? RIGHT?”
Memorization is hard, y’all.
Clearly I’m not a good Christian; I haven’t taken the time to memorize Scripture. I can’t even recite the 23rd Psalm, for goodness’ sake. Clearly it’s not in my heart. Clearly I haven’t taken the time to meditate sufficiently.
That’s true. I have a hard time with meditation. My mind never really focuses on one thing. Memorization used to be easier when I was younger; now I can’t remember much if it’s not written down, save for song lyrics to old tunes from the 70s and 80s that seeped in when I rode around in my parents’ car every day.
But that’s no excuse. My selfish life gets in the way of me fully surrendering to God’s word; if I really wanted to I’d let it in. I know I fail in this regard.
The thing is, I still love God. I have not memorized great portions of his word to be spat out on command, but I feel like he knows I take what he has to teach me seriously. But because I haven’t memorized a significant portion of Scripture, I have the sneaking suspicion that a major source of my sin is that I don’t really take his word seriously.
That, my friends, is something to meditate on. And pray about. I recently read that “Only through prayer can we exchange our independent selfishness for the gracious inner workings of God.” I am on board with this statement. So many times have I caught myself going through the motions of prayer, trying to learn something meaningful for Bible study or putting on the façade of being a good Christian so that God, but ultimately other Christians, will be pleased with me. And then I fall down, dramatically. I missed the point.
I’m willing to call out my imperfections, the places where I could do better. God knows about them, after all. He is the only one to whom that matters.
In the meantime, I have to deal with this memorization business. I know it says in the Bible that we should memorize and meditate on God’s Word. I mean, I think it does, right?
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The school year is over, and we’re looking down the barrel of a summer full of possibilities.
Long, sunny days that scream
Swimming! Popsicles! Sleeping In!
in between the planned
Beach Vacation! Grandma’s House! Summer Camp!
In my mind, I like to also think
Library! Art Museums! Learning How To Properly Fold Laundry!
By August, after all the vacations have come to an end, and we are sliding into the last days before a new school year, I know from practice that we will have seen
Nonstop TV Watching! Too Much Time Spent Indoors! Numerous Proclamations Of ‘I’m Bored!’
I have good intentions for productive summer vacations. However, my will to carry them out can easily go by the wayside if I’m not vigilant. A houseful of people who suddenly find themselves with unlimited time on their hands can lead to the worst types of idleness.
I have accepted this truth and try to overcome it; after all, I am the role model here. I don’t want my children living here when they’re my age. Year to year, we have mild success at being productive through the summer months. The kids take suggestions with variable aplomb; they respect and know that my directives are expected to be carried out and that I never ask them to do anything that they are incapable of doing. They push back, but they know that I mean well for them.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, he outlined a life that was expected of them according to God’s plan. Esteem authorities. Be at peace with others. Comfort the weak. Be patient. Pursue what is good for everyone. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in everything. Don’t quench the spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Hold onto the good. Stay away from evil. Paul meant well for the Thessalonians, because he knew that it was what God intended for them.
We would do well to add these items to our list for a productive life, and not just during certain times of the year. Our behavior, words, and character, if shaped according to these instructions, will adhere to the good intentions that God has for our lives. He expects it of us.
We may fail amazingly at living up to these expectations daily, but Paul’s words are meant to encourage us by showing the right way to live – the good life. God, through Paul, shows that he knows what’s best for us. It is never easy to live according to God’s plan for us, but with his help it is attainable.
Perhaps even more attainable than getting my children to the library over the summer.
Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (NLT)
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
After weeks (months?) of nightly activities for one or more family members, we found ourselves all at home at dinner time last night. What once was a nightly routine has become a special occasion. Sports and dance, school events, work travel schedules and church meetings infiltrated our home like a houseguest who never really gives a leave-by date, forcing us to make do each day with splintered routines and fluid timetables. Despite our best efforts to keep scheduling and activities to a minimum, we failed and found ourselves at the mercy of an overloaded calendar, working just as hard during the evenings as we do during the day.
We were all feeling scattered and disjointed, or maybe it was just me. I crave routine and order and function better that way. When things are up in the air, I can’t seem to get my feet on the ground or keep my head from spinning. Almost everything around here has been half-done lately.
I think the kids were unbalanced, too, because they haven’t been sleeping well. They haven’t been eating well either, and they’ve been distracted and withdrawn. “Off-time” is spent vegetating in front of the TV or playing video games. They have so much “on-time” that I let them.
So last night, the kids’ activities were cancelled and my husband had a meeting, but it was later. So I made dinner, set the table, and planned time to eat together.
We sat, ate, and talked. About school, our day, friends and family, what we would be doing this summer. We talked about the food. We talked about our new phone service. We talked about the next school year and how things might be different.
One of the kids asked about Adam and Eve. Were they really the first humans, what did they look like, how long did it take for God to make the world and all the animals, where do the dinosaurs fit in. We talked about God’s timing and how we learn that one thousand years are a day to him, and a day is one thousand years. We said that was where faith comes in; to trust that God did what he said he did, and that we don’t know the order in which he made Triceratops and T-Rex and modern-day cats and dogs.
We talked about if God always was and always will be, then he surely is older than our earth, so why did he take so long to make the earth? We talked about how do we know that what we really look like is what we see in the mirror? We talked about how do we know that we are ourselves, and that we don’t trade places with each other from time to time? We asked each other if we really have four eyes instead of just two.
We laughed and said our heads hurt with these questions.
We touched base. And it was relaxing, and fun, and just what we needed.
And today is another day, and the calendar is empty.
Thank you, God, for moments spent together. Help us to focus on the love we have for you and for each other. Amen.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
“Mom. Guess what happened today.”
I mentally prepare for my son’s latest middle school tale. He is a storyteller. He shares. I am thankful. In a short time that might change drastically.
I don’t waste time venturing a guess. He is waiting. What happened? I ask.
It’s often the same type of story. It usually involves a friend. So-and-so, sometimes a kid whose name I recall from his early elementary school years, sometimes a kid whose name he has mentioned many times recently, and sometimes a kid who he doesn’t want to name, did this. Or said that. Or picked a fight.
Sometimes the story is one that causes my stomach to drop, or makes me want to laugh or cry or scream. Being a kid these days is intense. I don’t want to cause him to retreat into teenage oblivion. It’s a balancing act. My time as his sounding board is precious. My reaction is always the same: casualness.
“Huh. What do you think about that?”
The answer, usually simple: Not good.
We talk about choices. We talk about setting the stage for your reputation now. If it concerns a friend, I ask if he can help. I ask if he wants to remain in the friendship. I tread lightly, matching lecture with anecdotes. Usually I’ve experienced the same thing. Sometimes I am experiencing a parallel situation.
“That’s so junior high,” we say to each other when we witness other people having trouble in their friendships. We tell ourselves that we are glad that we don’t act like that. We are adults. Who has time for immature squabbling?
But it’s not junior high. It’s human to do wrong in friendships, and hurt others, and be hurt. Friendships suffer for all kinds of reasons. It could be an action or word; when friendships go long, we allow our friends to see a side of us that we try so hard to cover up when we first meet. We overlook some quirks. Others are harder to ignore.
But often, we forget to consider a difference by asking What do I think about that? Is this something I can help my friend with, or is it time for me to back out? We jump to conclusions and write a person off because we are offended.
Impulses are difficult to manage, especially afterwards. Romans 12:18 tells us that “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV). It is our responsibility to work on our side of relationship; this is where maturity lies, because it is hard. Nobody likes to admit weakness, their need for others, the possibility that they are wrong. Pride is an unwieldy obstacle.
God designed us to be social creatures. His plan for us involves fellowship, love for others, taking care of each other. We were made to be friends with each other and to work out differences. Petty squabbles are meant to be handled, not cause break-ups.
This is not to say that all of us will be friends, or that all of our friendships are destined for eternity. There’s a saying that goes “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I believe this is true; there are several people in my life who I’m not currently friends with for very good reasons. But while the people in my life are here, I will do my part to cultivate the relationship. Not perfectly, of course, but I can always ask God for guidance when a friendship falters, and I can stop and ask myself what I think about it before I act on impulse.
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. Matthew 18:15 (NLT)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 (NIV)