What are we Complaining About?

Have you ever thought about the hypocrisy there is in the act of complaining?  Complaints are heard by all of us all day long.  We hear complaints on the media, through social media, through work, school, family, clubs, sports, while driving our cars, and even in our churches.  Some days I feel beat down and bombarded by complaints.  The conviction within my own soul when I fall into temptation to complain has become more and more overwhelming as my relationship with Christ deepens.  There are times that I really can’t stand myself if the nasty negativity virus takes over my thoughts and speech.  Through observation of complainers and unfortunately times of participation God has revealed a lot of truth to me.  How often is the very wrong you hear a complainer moaning about something you just witnessed that complainer do within the last twenty four hours or maybe even five minutes?  We are so often blind to our own downfalls and imperfections.  One very clear observation is that it seems everyone at one time or another thinks that they work harder than everyone else.  By deeming themselves the hardest working and smartest of the bunch they nominate themselves the official complainer and tattle tale.  This can be observed in toddlers age two to adults one hundred and two.  Human sin nature is so sneaky that it allows our pride to blind us to how ridiculous our complaints are.  Complaining breeds such nasty selfishness, bitterness, and anger within us.  The very act of keeping score destroys relationships.  Families, friends, and co-workers keeping score of who did or didn’t do something negates any kind of team work.  In a marriage it can be devastating to keep score.   In First Corinthians chapter 13 verse five says that love “keeps no record of wrongs”.  Is it love that is flowing from us when we keep a track record of who does or does not do?  It is quite the opposite of love.

Last week I had a day that was one of those weary days of hearing complaints and even coming across people that the tension of their anger just radiated from them.  The final kicker was a lady that abruptly drove up to the rear of my vehicle on a two lane road.  As I looked in my rear view mirror she was waving her hands, yelling, and had the most hateful look on her face.  It was obvious that she had very bright orangish red hair and that she was an older woman.  I then turned my eyes to my speedometer that read 48 mph and we were in a 45 mph speed zone.  Much to my unbelief she passed my car in a no passing zone around a blinding curve.  Whatever her complaints and anger was about I wondered if it was really worth her risking her own safety as well as who ever maybe coming around that curve.  She was driving in the opposite direction of all the schools and hospitals so I couldn’t even come up with that as an excuse for her poor driving behavior.  Can our complaints deliver us physical harm?  Most definately especially if we complain to the wrong person at the wrong time.  Complaining is a good way to have someone “clean your clock”, it also may cost a person employment, it diminishes one’s integrity, and definately will cause loss of respect.   Complaining also will set the bar much higher because it will set one up to be more closely observed.  If one chooses to complain then it’s best to be on one’s toes to not do the very thing they are complaining about. The complainer will be called out eventually.

My prayer personally is to not be a complainer.   Colosians 3:23 has been a huge help for me in this.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,”   I can never be treated as unfairly as Jesus himself was yet He forgave and laid down His life for all of us sinning complainers.

At the end of that rough day I was to help lead in our Awana program.  My prayer as I drove to church that evening was to see God’s love and peace.  For there to be peace and love that only comes from God coming from me after a day of being beat down.  He is always faithful.  It was a wonderful evening.  After spending time with my third and fourth grade girls helping them memorize their scripture verses there were a couple girls that were new to our Awana group.  With bright and beautiful smiles they kept saying how much fun they had in “this class”.  They had fun memorizing God’s Word.  God turned a day of feeling beat down by a negative world to raising my spirit high above it through these precious girls.  Phillippians 2:14-15 “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, chidren of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”  Lord please help me to be a positive shining star!!!

 

Guard Your Heart (written especially for teens)

Tonight our youngest daughter is going to her first sixth grade dance and our oldest is going to her first football game as a high school freshman. Thankfully neither one of them show signs of being overly concerned about boys or having a boyfriend at this point. One of my deepest regrets from my high school, college, and early twenties years is the focus I had on boyfriends and dating. With having a sister, two daughters, and being a girl myself I tend to have a better understanding of the girl viewpoint, but this blog can be for both male and females. The regret now is that I lost valuable time with Jesus. My focus and self-esteem weighed far too heavily on boy relationships. It is obvious looking back that I had parents praying for God to lead me to the right spouse, but I put far too much time and energy into being concerned about it. Definately not enough prayer time of my own for God to lead my life. You see the deeper our relationship is with Christ the greater our self-esteem in who God created us to be is. In a deeper relationship with Christ we don’t need the world telling us we are beautiful or giving us attention especially inappropriate attention. The road was full of broken heartedness leading to my dear husband and best friend Mike. There were so many lessons I learned the hard way. Alas God did lead me to a man that He continues to show me how He divinely planned us for each other. One of the most recent clues was our family vacation. The plans changed a few times as to who would be coming along with us on our adventure. In the end Mike was the only male. He had myself, my mom, his two daughters, and two of our family friends teen daughters. Yes he was surrounded. Girls age 11, 14, 15, 17, 41, and 64. Female hormones from one spectrum to the other. He handled it with masculine grace!! He truly is my teamate in life. I say teamate because it requires the both of us working together and giving one hundred percent to make our relationship work. The greatest warning signs I learned through my experiences were to beware of selfishness, conceitedness, boys that wanted to change me, power hunger, jeolousy,and control. A marriage can not work well if either side has an issue with these.

My prayer for my girls and all young people in my life is for them to guard their hearts. If their heart and focus belong to Jesus then they will remain under God’s hedge of protection. When we give our hearts to the wrong people and make them the idol and focus of our life it often will lead to poor decisions, heart ache, a destroyed self-image and self-esteem.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Powerwashed Soul

The last two days I have been doing some powerwashing to the outside of our home and to outside furniture. To look at a lot of it especially from our road it wasn’t all that noticibly dirty. Goo gobs of dirt began to break loose by the power of the water as I began to spray. It was gratifying for me to see the finished clean product that I really didn’t even know was as disgusting as it was. The same holds true with our souls. We really have no idea how disgusting we really are until the power of the blood of Jesus starts to wash away all the hidden closets of our soul. The more we ask Him to cleanse us, reveal to us what we need to change, to disclose our hidden sinfulness the more He power blasts His forgiveness into our hearts. I know I need my daily power blast through His word and continuous prayer!! Thank you Jesus for power washing my soul on a daily basis!! 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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The turmoil around our world has always been troubling to me. The desire for everyone to love each other and live in peace is what my heart longs for. Recently the turmoil happening just a few miles away from where we live has really troubled me down to the very core. You see there is a mentality in this world that thinks “I am above the law and I can do whatever I want.” This is a mentality that I have witnessed in all walks of life and it has no partiality to color of skin. What this mentality completely lacks is respect. Respect for one’s self, respect for others, respect for others to live work and breathe peacefully, respect for authority, respect for laws, and respect for the ultimate authority God.
At a very early age my parents somehow had lovingly instilled in me the respect for authority and standards we call rules. Very early on I was quite aware that stealing would result in very undesirable consequences and possibly jail. Very early on I knew that police officers were around for my protection, but I should never talk back, hit, or try to take a police officer’s weapon. If I decided that it would be a good idea for my forty-one year old, five foot five, Caucasian, and female little self to get into a conflict with a police officer the results would be catastrophic. Say I screamed at the officer, punched the officer, forcefully grabbed the officer’s gun, disobeyed orders to freeze, and continued to pursue an attack on the officer guess what the results would be? It would not matter the color of my skin, gender, or socio-economic status. It would not matter that I am a mother and a nurse. I would be committing a terrible crime and endangering the life of an officer and others around me. Yes I would be shot and most likely killed.

My heart aches for the youth of our nation and our world who do not have respect instilled into their lives. My heart aches for all the youth killing each other, testing the boundaries of authority, and committing suicides day in and day out. There is a much deeper problem than biases of skin color in our nation. It is an attitude of “I will do whatever I want and there is nothing anyone can do about it.” There is an attitude of “Everyone owes me something and I don’t have to do anything to earn my rights.” It comes down to respect and the lack of it.
When God created the world He set up many laws that we continue to discover. There are laws of physics, mathematics, and laws necessary to sustain life. One law I will use as an example is the law of gravity. Gravity is for our good. It is for our protection. Gravity is key to having an atmosphere with just the right blend of gases to sustain our very breath. Gravity is key to keeping our bodies attached to this beautiful earth. If there were no gravity our bodies would drift to outer space and as the pressure changes within our bodies we would explode. It is a law that warrants respect. I am very aware that if I jumped off a tall building or mountain I have no power over gravity. It is the authority and I cannot defy it. Depending on how far I fall would determine seriousness of injury or death. The pilot of an airplane must follow the rules and regulations required of that skill. If the pilot decides to do things how he wants…well then hello!!!! If you are having surgery you want the doctors and nurses to follow the rules and regulations for your safety!! I am sure you get the picture!!

God set up authority for our protection. He set up authority for us to grow and prosper. There is no authority or person of authority that God has not placed within that position. There are often times I may not agree fully with the authorities, but God has placed them and that is reason enough to respect. The bible is very clear on how we should view authority. Romans 13:1-7 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes, if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

There is a part of me that if the finances and resources were available I would love to invite all the children without loving parents into our home to be raised to love and respect themselves and authority. To show love one sweet child at a time no matter whether it is a beautiful brown, yellow, black, white, or red faced child. We all need the love support and structure needed to succeed in life. Most importantly to teach them of the love and hope God gave us in Jesus His One and only Son.

Distractions can be Little Snots

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Through the years serving on the praise team, choir, and singing special music at church there have been many distractions within my own worship. So often the distractions have an element of hilarity to them. Those who know me well are aware that stifling laughter is NOT something I have become well-versed in. That is when the Holy Spirit seems to provide me with the greatest help! “Lord please keep me from laughing at that person I just saw picking their nose!” “Lord please give me the ability to sustain from laughing after seeing my friend fall when trying to exit the building right in the middle of this song…OH PLEASE HELP!!” There are the typical missed words, music blunders, technical difficulties, and miss counts that happen. “Just keep singing…Just keep singing…smile…and just keep singing!!”

Tonight was one of those nights. Being in front of the congregation one does not want to be the distraction to the worship of others. There is always the concern that no undergarments are showing and that pant flies are always zipped. Tonight it was my nose!! I had yawned several times prior to church starting which triggered my eyes to water. We begin our Sunday night services with the opportunity to actually come to the altar, kneel and pray for various prayer needs. Tonight I knelt at the stage to pray for our country, peace with turmoil that is happening in a neighboring town, and for our church ministries. With having watery eyes and then leaning my head far over to pray the perfect scenario developed within my nasal cavities to form the pesky watery mucous we candidly refer to as SNOT.

As we went on up to lead worship I was able to sniff the watery substance keeping it contained. That is up until time to actually start singing. Singing and sniffing my nose at the same time is not a skill I have ever acquired. As I sang I felt the liquid drip and roll down onto my upper lip. Trying to hide the snot with the microphone I become very distracted in my worship. The image in my mind was that the bright stage lights would catch the liquid just right and send off a sparkling prism-like effect. In my mind my nostrils had become like a light house crying out for attention to be noticed by all. As a last resort I snuck my left index finger up to do a quick swipe in between songs. Hey a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do sometimes!!

This distraction got me to thinking that it is normal in our walk with Jesus to be distracted. Our focus might get knocked off balance from time to time. What I have noted in my own walk is that the more I know Him, the more I study God’s Word and spend time in prayer the shorter my distractions are. I am not sure if Satan has thrown any less distractions my way, but what I do notice is that when distracted God helps me direct my focus back to Him so much quicker now than say even just a year ago. There are so many little snots in our lives that can distract us from God, but the quicker we ask God to wipe them from us the more focused on Christ we will be. The more focused on Christ we are the more freedom, joy, peace, hope, love, and security we will have! Lord help me to wipe away all the distracting snots in my life and look full into your face always!!!!

Proverbs 4:25-27 “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer

Luke 10:38-42 “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The Pit of Depression

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This week the tragic death of one of my all-time favorite comedian/actors, Robin Williams, has had me thinking a lot about depression. There is no one that is immune to slipping into the pit of depression and despair. It is a disease that allows a person to look healthy on the outside while on the inside they spiral deeper and deeper into a state of helpless loss. Depression will sink its claws into the rich elite, the poor, every culture, every ethnicity, every social stature, and every belief if it is given the upper hand. I am no counselor, no psychiatrist, and I am not an ordained minister. What I know of our human psychological and spiritual health has been years of life observation and from studying the Word of God. My role as a nurse has allowed me to care for patients and families in their darkest of times. Many times I actually cared for a person who had attempted suicide while serving my years in a critical care nursing position. Having grown up as a preacher’s kid I saw my father care for the depressed as well as the direct effect that ministering to others had on him. My first- hand experience is the daily battle of temptation to listen to the lies of Satan or chose to listen to God in my own personal life. The conclusive definition of depression as a Christian, mother, wife, and nurse that I have come to is that it is Satan’s lies telling us how worthless we are. The more weight and burdens we carry upon ourselves the deeper we will sink. The more lies of worthlessness the great deceiver can get us to believe the closer he will lead us to an unproductive and destructive life. God created each of us in His image and to have a specific part in His perfect plan. He knows us so well He knows how many hairs are on our head. (Matthew 10:30) Satan wants nothing more than to destroy our purpose, our worth, and to destroy us from the inside out.
Christians can often fall victim to depression because Satan already knows he does not have our soul, but if he can make us unproductive in our walk with Jesus he will do so. He does not want our lives to lead others to Christ. The scriptural picture that keeps coming to mind is when Jesus was walking on water. (Matthew 14:22-33) When Peter realized it was Jesus walking toward the boat he was the only disciple who asked Jesus to invite him to come out of the boat and walk to him. Peter took a huge step of faith to walk on storm driven waves to meet Jesus. As long as he looked to Jesus he stayed upon the water. As soon as he started to look at the wind, waves, and realized his personal human weakness he sank. That is the way life is for us. As soon as we start to look at life’s problems, storms, our own sin, sins that have been committed toward us, our chronic illnesses, all the overwhelming tasks, etc… we can easily start to sink into the pit of depression if we try to rely on our own human strength. Satan will lie and tell us that we are worthless, a failure, that everything bad is our fault. The lies are far too many to list.
The one thing that God has shown me again and again is that He indeed will turn ashes to beauty. Isaiah 61:1-3 “Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” No matter how overwhelmed I feel in my own weaknesses God always has a surprise waiting. It has been within my own deepest regrets, dark times, and my greatest sadness that God has shown me just how deep His love, grace and beauty runs.
My heart aches as I learn of more and more children, teens, and adults that have sunk so deep into the pit of depression that they want to end their own life. We have no idea what lies Satan is burdening others with as we walk through our daily life. God can protect us from this pit if we cry out to Him. God can use our lives to help pull others from the pit of despair. As we focus on Jesus, on loving, serving and encouraging others God will provide the power to walk on top of the stormy waves of this life.

Let’s Get Our Worship On

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There is not really a style of music I don’t like especially when it comes to songs about Jesus. Tonight our church hosted a concert of a Southern Gospel singing group. One of my children commented that they looked out at the crowd and all they saw was shining gray hair. Giggles overwhelmed me after having made the same observation myself prior to the comment. The confession must be made that I love the old hymns and well harmonized music right along with all those who have earned those shining hairs. It was thrilling to see how happy the music made the older crowd, to see them truly get their worship on, and I am pretty sure I witnessed a senior fist pump with a “woot woot”. To worship with seniors, to worship at a youth conference, a children’s worship service, all ages and all ethnicities is an absolute joy. To meet fellow believers in a time of pure worship gives true glimpses into heaven and eternity. There is nothing more exciting to me as I view the stats of this blog and find that there are friends reading along from other countries. Oh how awesome it would be to get to worship in all the favorite styles of music with my new friends. Knowing that most likely I will never meet any of you in my life time I pray that we will all meet face to face in heaven one day. Eternally we will sing perfect notes in perfect harmony right to the perfect face of Jesus! How awesome to hear all the styles, voices, cultures, ethnicities all joined in song to praise to our Lord!!!

Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”

Psalm 47:6-7 “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praise. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.”

Living Water

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Hiking has become one of my top all-time favorite pass times. Living smack in the middle of Midwest America there are very few challenging trails to embrace. The circumstance of our geographical surroundings leads me to plan as many vacations as I can around this love to hike and explore. It has to be balanced with what the children and my husband enjoy as well. My definition of fun is often very few others definition.
There is something about the anticipation of what will be around the next bend of the trail. The thrill of reaching the goal of the destination set to reach. God’s creation is photogenic as where ever one looks there is such beautiful artwork. There is pain that comes with these hikes. As I age the pains are becoming more plentiful, but that seems to add to the joy of reaching the final destination. Despite the pain in my right knee, despite the pain in my left hip, despite falling, despite pain in my lower back, and despite the fact that my feet now have their own heart beat I am here!!! The climb, the battle, the pain is all worth the views and discoveries.

There has been a particular hike in the Smokey Mountains that I have had my sights on for four years now. This past vacation there was time allotted for my husband and I to set out on this adventure I had been patiently waiting for. It was well worth the wait, the anticipation, and the four mile one way up a mountain trudge. The path followed closely alongside a bubbling mountain stream with the ultimate destination set for a beautiful one hundred foot waterfall. The entire trek was lined with moss and ferns growing in and out of everything. The beloved ecosystem literally houses hundreds of different species of plant life. There were trees that had to of been hundreds of years old along the trail. As we continued to place one foot in front of the other I kept thinking of Living water mentioned in scripture. Life thrives by this beautiful stream as it gives nourishment and the much needed water for these plants to survive.

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Life with Jesus and receiving the “living water” He teaches of and gives believers is what spiritual life, health, and growth requires. You see in a life with Jesus as our guide there is always anticipation of what will be around the next bend. There is anticipation of our final destination of His glory for eternity. Along the strenuous path there will be pain, struggles, and falls. Through the struggles there will be strength, endurance, and a beauty that will prevail as one continues to focus on Jesus and His purpose and plan.
John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

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I am Always Right

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I love the little teaching moments throughout each day. Sometimes the teaching moments are for the kids, sometimes for my husband and me, most of the time they are for the entire family. Our youngest child has always been a bit on the argumentative side quick to try to prove her mother and father wrong. Many times she is indeed correct leaving my husband and I no choice but to humbly concede that yes you are right and we are wrong. Young memory verses the over forty club memory. Tonight I was simply walking through the house singing a song. I got to the part of the song that says “Holy is the Lord” and the little dear immediately scolded that the words are “Holy is the Lamb”. I replied with, “No dear daughter I am 100% sure I am right on this one.” Proceeding to the computer I pulled up the lyrics on line. She refused to look upon the screen as I pointed and read “Holy is the L-O-R-D” due to her denial I then proceeded to play the video of the tune so that her ears would reveal the true lyrics. Loud and clear it was very evident that the word was Lord and not Lamb! We continued with our friendly banter as each time the word Lord was sung I belted out the most obnoxiously sung “LORD” I could muster. Remaining in denial I offered to contact Hillsong and let them know that Cora says that their lyrics are incorrect. Our crazy fire turned to mom stating that “part of maturing in life is to learn how to admit when you are wrong”. She still kept smiling in her stubbornness clinging to her denial of wrongness. It tends to be a game between us that ends with huge bear hugs.

What a powerful sin nature we are all born with. Admitting when we are wrong and asking for forgiveness seems to be one of our greatest challenges to overcome! The first step toward freedom in Christ Jesus, to true joy, peace, and hope is to admit that we are wrongful sinners. To realize that there is nothing we can do to correct our own wrongs. Jesus has the only power to forgive us of our sins. To fill the gap that sin creates between us and our having a relationship with God. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”