Sunday, May 31, 2009

God Came Near

This morning I read a scripture in James 4:8 that said, "Come near to God and He will come near to you. . ."

It was another Sunday morning sitting by the river listening to the water hit the shore. I had to stop for a moment and really think about this scripture. In the chill of the morning, with the stillness that surrounded me, I felt very close to God.

In fact, this weekend I had some much needed God Moments. I had the pleasure of staying a couple of nights at The Gathering Place. The Gathering Place is my Aunt and Uncle's home in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

From the moment we started to drive up the long, narrow, winding, gravel road to their home, I felt my shoulders become less tense, my nerves started to calm and I felt more at peace. When I stepped out of the car I was able to take a deep breath and know it was going to be a great weekend.

I felt so close to God up on that mountain. I was, of course, at a higher elevation than I am on a normal day, but that was not it. . . As I stood on the porch looking out into the wilderness, I could hear God whisper my name. Let me clarify, I did not hear God speak to me audibly. However, as I was standing there in the calm of His presence all around me the wind was blowing through the leaves, and He was there.

I know that He is always present, but there is something about being in the midst of the beauty that He has created that makes you feel a bit closer to Him.

What is so ironic is that it isn't an easy drive to get to The Gathering Place. In fact, in the winter, my Aunt and Uncle have had to snowshoe up the mountain to get to their home. But once you arrive at this place, it is spectacular.

Once again, I reflect back to my faith journey. The journey, isn't easy. Along the way there are steep mountains to climb, sharp curves, and forks in the road that can lead you deep into the wilderness. However, when I come into the presence of God, it is worth every step of the journey. And lucky for me, with the Bible as my compass, I will not lose my way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good Soil

It is planting season. All the farmers in the Midwest are busy in the fields and the rest of us are busy planting flowers and gardens. Our wild backyard bunnies have taken care of all of my flowers that I planted in the ground, but my containers are safe, so far.

This weekend when I was doing my quiet time in the camper I went to the parables in Matthew. I decided to read the Parable of the Four Soils in Matthew 13:1-23. After I read it and reflected on it, I started to journal. I would love to say that right now I am a seed that fell on good soil.

"But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." Matthew 13:23

However, my mind kept wandering to Matthew 13:22, "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful."

Last night I picked up my copy of Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Once again, I think God is trying to get a point across to me because what did I read about, the Parable of the Four Soils! Chan says, "Do not assume you are good soil". Okay God, I hear you.

I guess I have some work to do. . .how about you? Another statement Chan makes is in the form of a question. I am still mulling on it. I will leave it for you to think about, too. He says, "Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock

So do you have the song associated with the title of this blog running through your head yet? I do. My youngest really enjoys this song. We sing it at night before bed. This weekend we were singing it in our camper.

We got some much needed family time away this weekend. (Even though we were only 3 miles from home at the campground, it was still away from home). On Sunday morning we decided to spend some time with the girls reading from the Bible and talking about what we read.

I was not prepared to do this ahead of time and they were in a hurry to get outside to play so I racked my brain for a story I could read to capture a 3, 6 and 8 year-olds attention and teach them something at the same time.

So, we started to sing about the Wise Man and the Foolish Man. I read them the story from Matthew 7:24-29.
The Wise and Foolish Builders
 24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

 28When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

We asked the girls what it meant to build their house upon the Rock. They told us about how you have to believe in Jesus. We talked to them about how it isn't enough to just believe, but to build your house upon the Rock, you must live out what you believe. We talked about what it means to be a foolish man.

Our middle child said in a soft voice, I know kids that don't believe in Jesus. It was really sad to hear her voice. She understands the consequences of not believing. Our oldest was able to explain to us that If you are wise you will go to heaven and if you are foolish you will go to hell. Pretty deep for an eight year-old, but she knows what she believes.

Our biggest prayer as parents is to build our house upon the Rock of Jesus Christ. To live our lives as an example to our girls so that they will grow up and also build their homes upon the Rock. Listening to their little childlike faith so far, I think they are headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ready or Not, Here I Come

The girls have a couple of friends over and summer fever has definitely hit. Five girls in the house and summer fever = giggling girls and craziness. I tried hiding out in the laundry room for a little relief, but my littlest tracked me down to help her with some dress-up clothes. Now I am trying to hide out in my room, sitting in my prayer chair, silence at last. . .

I think about when my girls play a game of hide and seek. They are always looking for the best hiding place. Unfortunately for them, we really don't have a lot of great places inside the house or outside. Plus, they have a three year old sister that isn't very good at hiding. She waits until she sees where everyone hides and then she usually helps the seekers find the ones that are hiding.

I did a little research on the words hiding and hide in the Bible and I found this verse in Psalm 32:7.

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." Psalm 32:7

I am so blessed that I have the very best hiding spot of all. Right in the protection of God's arms. However, I hope to be a little like my three year old. I don't want to keep this awesome hiding place to myself. I want to tell everyone about it. The best part of all is that Satan can know my hiding place and he still can't win the game.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sunny Outlook

I love the sun. The past two days have been absolutely beautiful in North Central South Dakota. We haven't had a lot of wind and the temperature is perfect. All the windows are open and the house is filled with fresh air.

The mustiness of winter is finally gone. It is amazing how the weather can affect my attitude. The past couple of days it is easier to get out of bed in the morning and the days have just flown by. I do think it helps that the girls spend a lot of time outdoors as well. The house is a little quieter when they do. :-) 

"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

New life surrounds me as I go outside and look at everything turning green. It is a wonderful reminder to me that in South Dakota the cold and dreary days of winter eventually give way to the hot and sunny days of summer.

Thankfully each day I am also realizing that the days that I feel overwhelmed and defeated also come and go. It is a lot harder to have a self-focused day when I wake up in the morning praising the Lord for the day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

No Excuses

Silence. I love it. It does not come very often in this crazy house. My husband is across the street at softball practice and I sent all three girls across the street with him. It is finally nice enough outside to have the screen door open so I can sit here and just listen to nature.

I have a house that is trying to call my name to straighten it up, but I am not listening. When I can take a moment and sit and write, I have to take it. Lately it seems that I don't have any quiet time in the mornings or in the evenings and definitely not in the middle of the day.

This morning I went down by the river with my husband and we spent some time together. However, we didn't talk to each other. We shared in each other's quiet time. We both spent time alone with God, while in each other's presence. It is something that we have started to do on Sunday mornings before we go to church. It is a time that I treasure every week. 

This morning I spent some time in Philippians 4. Verse 4 says this, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" I started to think about my last blog post, In a funk. I started to be rather convicted. I really don't have the right to let myself get to that place.

This verse is pretty clear. It does not say, Rejoice when something good happens, or rejoice when I feel like it. It clearly states, "Rejoice in the Lord always." 

I am reading a book right now by Francis Chan, titled Crazy Love. There is a statement that keeps speaking to my heart. He states, "We need to stop giving people excuses not to believe in God."

I have really been tossing this statement around in my head. I have really been thinking to myself, "Am I living my life in a way that I am giving others excuses to not want to believe in God?"

I believe in a God that loves all people, but do I love all people. I believe in a God that forgives all sin, but do I forgive others. I believe in a God who guides every step of my life, but do I let Him, or do I try to forge my own path? I believe in a God that is fair and just, but do I try to be the judge?

I don't want to give people excuses to not believe in God. The God of the universe that created all things. The God that shows me how much he loves me everyday. All I have to do is look around me and see how much He loves me. I look at my three beautiful girls. I look at the gift of my marriage. I look at the leaves that are starting to bloom. God's love for me is everywhere.

I will leave you with one more statement that I read in Crazy Love. It is another statement that has me on my knees, asking God to forgive me and asking God to help me, to change my heart. Chan says, "The irony is that while God doesn't need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don't really want Him most of the time. He treasures us and anticipates our departure from this earth to be with Him--and we wonder, indifferently, how much we have to do for Him to get by."

I don't want to be a follower of Christ that lives my life just getting by for Christ. I want to live my life with no excuses.

"Boldly and without hindrance he, [Paul], preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 28:31

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In a funk

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sin." 1 Peter 4:8

I am in a funk. My poor family has had to deal with it. . . I haven't been very pleasant the last couple of weeks. I am lucky that love covers a multitude of sins and I am really lucky that I have people in my life that love me deeply. Because this morning I think everyone wanted me to go back to bed and start the day over.

I told my husband at breakfast, "I don't know what is wrong with me, I am just really angry." He didn't argue with me, he knows that I am in a funk. After I realized that I was not having a very good start for the day, I took a deep breath and started over. Unfortunately for the majority of my family they were already off to school and work for the day so they didn't see my change in mood.

My youngest wanted me to color with her so I decided to grab my Prayer Journal and color. I grabbed my scripture cards that I am trying to memorize and I started to draw the scripture images and color them in. Interestingly enough, the first scripture I prayed was Psalm 56:7, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."

As I colored my anger started to melt. As I started to pray these scriptures and focus on what they really said, I felt a little bit of peace. After I finished my quiet time I decided that it was time to quit putting off working out. I finally convinced my little one that she could miss one cartoon while I got in a little exercise. It felt so good to sweat a little bit.

The anger I felt when I woke up had completely disappeared. I know what I need to get myself out of the funk. Unfortunately sometimes I let myself feel sorry for myself instead of just taking the time to pray through it.

A scripture that I need to attach to my bathroom mirror is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Be joyful always; pray continually: give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I guess I don't have any excuses to act the way I did when I got out of bed this morning. I am very blessed that my family loves me deeply.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So how did I do?

Okay so today is a week from when I decided to focus on the first section of 1 Peter 4:7-11. "Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." Some of you may be wondering how I did.

Well, I won't say that I have mastered this section of the verse, however, it is definitely on my mind at all times and I am working diligently at focusing my thoughts so that I can spend some serious time in prayer.

Now it is time to move on to the next portion of the verse. "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

I recently watched the final week DVD for Focus on the Family's Truth Project. God's timing is always perfect. . .because I am highly convicted right now on a topic that deals very closely with loving each other deeply, as the above scripture states.

The DVD focused on loving the unlovable. Well, in God's eyes, no one in unlovable. So. . . in our eyes, no one should be unlovable.

Take some time to think about the following question: "Whom do you consider unlovable?" I think all of us have people in our lives that we don't think we could ever love. Because to be honest when we think about them, we don't even really like them.

However, God expects us to love them. I have to remind myself that to someone else out there, they may consider me unlovable at times. 

God presents each of us with opportunities all of time. Sometimes it is as simple as saying hello when you pass by someone in the store. Sometimes it takes more from us like helping someone that we know is in need.

In our culture today, we like to think that someone else will take care of some one's needs. That we are too busy. I know that I often think this myself. How different the world would be if we started to care more about our neighbors than ourselves.

So my challenge for this next week is to really keep my eyes open for the opportunities that God presents to me. I may be only one person, living in what some think is the middle of nowhere. But as one person, in my little corner of the world, I can make a difference.

I need to remind myself that God takes each one of us just as we are. As 1 Peter 4:7 states, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Witness

The pastor at my church has been preaching on witnessing the past few weeks. I have really enjoyed studying the scripture and the Bible stories that he has brought into his message. Along with gaining some wisdom on the subject, I have been a little convicted.

At Easter, my mother-in-law told me that she thought I had the gift to witness. Unfortunately, I think it is really easy for me to talk to her family about my relationship with Christ because they are Christians. However, out in the world, it is not as easy.

Since I am a stay-at-home mom, I don't have coworkers to witness to, but yesterday I realized that I should not just think about witnessing to my friends and family. I have another audience that I can have a big impact on.

After school yesterday, I had a houseful. I babysat for a girlfriend's boys and then after school my girls each had a friend over, plus the neighbor's granddaughter was over to play. At one time I had eleven kids in my house. I had all of them, but the baby, sitting around the table eating fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies and kool-aid. As I had them running in and out of the house, and in and out of the house, I could have responded in one of two ways. With frustration, or with love.

I chose love. They were having so much fun chasing the baby bunnies in our backyard, trying to catch them & thinking I didn't realize what they were doing. Just like I want my friends to feel like my door is always open, I also want my kids' friends to feel that way, as well.

One day the girls had a friend over. We sat down to eat supper and Chad prayed for our food. In his prayer, he thanked God for the friendship with this friend. After he finished his prayer she said, "Did you just make that prayer up?" He said, "Yes". She said, "I thought so because you said my name and I didn't think their was a prayer like that." It gave my husband the opportunity to tell her about prayer and how we can pray about anything and everything. He had an open door to witness, and he took it.

I know with summer right around the corner, my house will soon be full of kids. I need to remember that I have a golden opportunity to be an example for these kids. To make them feel loved every time they walk through the doors of our home. And to teach them that Jesus is real and He loves them even more than I do.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My focus for this crazy Wednesday

". . . Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:7-11

I read this scripture yesterday morning. Obviously I did not take enough time to really read it and let it soak in. I often read scriptures that really speak to my soul, but I do not take the time to apply them to my life. If I could master this scripture alone, my life would be so different.

This scripture is full of powerful wisdom, so I am not going to try to fit it all into one blog post. As I take the time to break it down for my life, I am going to share my observations with you.

". . . therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray."

Have you ever tried to pray when you don't have a clear mind? I just tried to do this at 6:30 this morning. It didn't work. I was thinking about the day I had yesterday, the day ahead today and a million other things. I couldn't even finish a sentence before my mind was wandering. Then about 5 minutes into my quiet time, my youngest woke up and was ready to start the day.

There is definitely a reason we need to be clear minded when we go to the Lord in prayer. I wish that I was able to just sit and pour my heart out to God, but I get easily distracted, no matter what time of day it is. I often will journal my prayers, it keeps me focused and I have a much more personal time with God.

Then, there is self-control. If I had to list anything that I struggled with, self-control would be on the top of my list. I hope that it is the season of life that I am currently in. I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost three years, but I still struggle some days with being home 24/7. I was used to having to fulfill the demands of my job all day long and be a mom at night. It is quite different to fulfill the demands of a three, six and eight year old.

So as I start another day, I am going to be focused on these two things. Being clear minded and self-controlled and hopefully later today I can even get some quiet time to pray. For now, I need to go outside with my little one to see the bunnies and birds in our backyard. She is begging me to "can we please go outside and watch the big fat bunny." It is only 9:00 and I am still in my pajamas, but how can I resist?

Monday, May 4, 2009

God Clock

A couple of weeks ago I was trying to figure out how I was going to find any quiet time around this house. It seemed like there was never an opportunity for me to have any time to think, read or pray. I prayed that God would help me find some time to spend alone with him.

God answered my prayer. I have never been a morning person. I really enjoy staying up late and I really enjoy sleep. Sleep has been a struggle in our house since we moved to Mobridge because the day we moved here, our baby decided sleep was overrated. 

Usually I wake up at 7:00 am to get the girls out of bed and ready for school. If I was ever up any earlier than that, it was because my youngest decided it was time to get up. I set my alarm to go off and then I am off and running for the day fulfilling all of my roles as wife and mother, leaving little time for myself.

Last week, I started waking up before my alarm went off. The first day this happened, I was a little annoyed and I tried to get back to bed. The second day in a row it happened, I got out of bed and had my quiet time. The third day in a row it happened I said, "Okay God, I get it, you are answering my prayer, I will get out of bed."

So when I prayed I was thinking that God would reveal to me some time during the day to have this quiet time. I guess that wasn't what God had in mind. So now I do not need my alarm clock, I have my very own God Clock. 

The sun is shining when I wake up, I look outside and see the birds on my bird feeder and I can hear them singing. I can't wait until the weather gets a little bit nicer so that I can sit on my front porch and let God's light shine on me and I can praise Him for another beautiful day.

"In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3