Life is More than a Vending Machine

vending machine

The other day my youngest daughter and I had dashed out of the house without eating any breakfast.  Our place of destination that morning happened to have a vending machine full of junk food that could provide a very short lived satisfaction to hunger pains (with no nutritional value I must add).   My daughter asked if I had change so she could get a snack until we can get some “real food”.  With those big blue eyes softening my heart I of course  caved and told her to go ahead and get some change from my wallet for  a snack.  Her first try to obtain a snack of her choice the tasty treat became entangled in the spiral mechanics of the machine and would not drop below to her reach.    Upon her second try for another choice the snack once again became stuck between the spiral grasp and the glass door of the machine.   After the second try  the only thing being fed was the machine with mom’s change instead of her belly so she decided to call it quits and just count her/our losses.

 

This encounter reminded me so much of the world we live in.  Some give and give yet never seem to get ahead or become successful according to the standards of our world.  There are some who may give a little and get what someone else paid for and lost.  There are some who may just shake life and make demands and the demands are granted without any work or effort.    Sometimes worldly systems work  sufficiently and one can get what they have worked/paid for.  Life can really seem unfair and meaningless.

Life of one who has a relationship with Jesus provides so much more than the give and take of this world we live in.  The things that are so fleeting and superficial, beauty, money, power, fame, attention, etc… start to become just that, superficial, as one’s relationship deepens with Jesus.   A quote caught my attention in Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s Bible Commentary of the New Testament.  “God’s love for His own is not a pampering love; it is a perfecting love.”    It seems all anyone wants to hear is what God will give give give.  Our lives are so much more than what we can get.  The world is so focused on “self” and what God and others can do for “me me me”.    God’s plan for us is to perfect us.  Not in a way the world sees perfection.  It is a perfection of faith and love.  The more He perfects our faith the more of His light and love can flow through us.   The stronger our faith the more God can work through us to love others perfectly.  The stronger our faith the less we let ourselves get in God’s way.  Sometimes deepening our faith means we have to go through a lot of pain, suffering, sorrow, and mistakes in this life.  When it comes down to it I would much rather be perfected than to have everything perfect.  When I look back on what may seem a complete mess in my own life I can see God’s perfect plan and how it evolved and refined my faith.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– His good, pleasing and perfect will. “

What was I Thinking

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Upon hearing of the weather predictions for snow as I left work yesterday I made the statement “Ah I hope they don’t call school off tomorrow.”   Planning to do some deep heavy duty cleaning and purging on my ever so precious day off for this week I selfishly wanted nothing to stand in my way.

This morning my youngest came barreling in to say “Mom school is cancelled!!!”  My first thought turned to “Thank you Lord for knowing what is best.  What was I thinking yesterday?”  As a nurse there have been very few times on inclement weather days that I haven’t had to drag my children out of bed and drive them to a sitters so I could go on to work.  Nurses don’t get snow days unless a school nurse.  This is actually a rare gem of a day, a bonus day in our ever so busy schedule that the girls and I can stay in our jammies and not have to rush here and there.

I was reminded that our first thought, snap judgments, what we think we want, our selfishness, and our pride get in the way of God’s perfect plan.  He always knows so much better than I do.

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Now off to do some cleaning and hanging out with my precious blessings on our bonus day together!!!

Our Life Really isn’t Ours for the Taking, but for the Giving (foster/adopt a child 1)

I have been debating on whether to write on this topic or not.  Due to privacy I am not really sure how much of this journey I will be able to openly share.  Realizing that my own struggles could very well be the struggles of someone else out there is the draw I have to write and share what God is doing in the life of our family and within my own heart.  The call to foster and/or adopt has been weighing on Mike and I for around six years now.  During this time I have picked up at least a dozen packets from various agencies I kept a lot of them for a while then finally pitched them.   I have questioned several people that have gone down the road of fostering/adopting and some who have adopted from other countries.  The cost of time and finances has been my largest road block.  The rest of the family has actually been open without hesitation the whole time.  It has been my own selfish struggle.

We now have the resource of an extra bedroom our kids have become older, more mature, and much easier as far as actual care.  In fact we are getting close to being “done” as far as parenting goes.  Though one is never really “done” when a parent.   A few years ago we actually were going to apply for a license to foster, but we couldn’t figure out how to even get the classes worked in with our busy schedule so I easily gave up.

Well the topic reared its head again.  The last few weeks everywhere I turned the topic of fostering children was coming up.  I literally was feeling like God was beating me over the head with it.  So much so a week ago Sunday I actually was arguing with God.  Yes, I love Jesus, I have surrendered my life to following Jesus, but unfortunately I am still just a sinner saved by grace.  I yelled at him “I keep asking you what I need to give up in my life and you are telling me to add another human being or beings?!?!?!”  “Lord I am so tired I don’t know how I can!!!”  Then we go to church that evening and our youth pastor’s sermon was on James 1:26-27 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  The entire sermon brought tremendous conviction and was an answer to my ridiculous prayer/temper tantrum from earlier that day.   God’s answer was this…”You take this step of faith, trust me, I will provide what you need, it will cost you, but that’s ok because I am here and have a plan”.   Every reason I have not to foster children in need is purely selfish.

Needless to say we have started the process to be licensed.  Nothing will happen over night.  There will be ups and downs.  It will be a journey, but it’s not about us.  It is not about me.  My life is not my own.  I had to laugh that one truly does have to pay to be nice in this world.  Today I took a state form to my physicians office to have filled out stating that I am physically capable of caring for children.  There was a charge to have the form filled out.  I will be honest in saying that this caused a minor irritation in me, but a reminder that it does cost to do what is right.   In this life we can give all that we have or we can be takers.  One day when I meet God face to face will he see a life that gave everything?

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!!!

 

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

law books

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.

“It’s a Dog Eat Dog World”

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The little black dog is harder to see all snuggled on my lap. One of my favorite pictures of the dogs, my buddies.

What a beautiful Memorial Day morning. As I sat on our back patio reading my bible and drinking my morning coffee the realization of all who sacrificed everything for the freedoms I was enjoying in that very moment was overwhelming. There are so many to whom I owe my humble gratitude Jesus, American soldiers, my parents… My attention then turned to my furry friends who had joined me. Our small dachshund /Lhasa Apso mix dog in the chair beside me and our three legged wonder Yellow Lab dog lying beneath my chair.
Our little dog tends to be more of the family annoyance. She is an extremely selfish and nervous creature. She would eat until she literally exploded. She seeks opportunities to steal any kind of snack from anyone not paying close enough attention. Snappy and grumpy if she is not getting her way her selfishness, her looks of paranoia, and nervous habits often tend to be the center of family jokes. Her choice human happens to be me and she only seems content when near me and/or eating.
Our sweet rescue dog is quite the opposite. Her quiet and peaceful demeanor has made her a true family dog. Completely unselfish in her love and affection for the entire family she shows pure gratitude toward anyone who cares to rub her belly or scratch behind her ears. Her patience with the little dog amazes me. At times I have observed her leave a few bites in her bowl of food for the little one to devour. It took the work of four families to rescue this precious pet. That is a whole other story of God’s timing that I will share sometime.
When the time comes that the little dog passes I am quite sure that I will be the only one to shed a tear for her. Her lack of affection for others and selfishness has not made a great impact on this family. On the other hand when our sweet three legged wonder passes there will be great mourning in the Lucas household.
It is amazing to me how we as humans will feel the loss and mourn for lives of ones who truly loved and led lives of sacrifice for others. When a selfish power hungry dictator, politician, or shrewd businessman departs from this life there actually may be a celebration instead of mourning. Our human response is so amazing in that we long for love and selflessness yet the attitude of do what is best for “me” overpowers and most often prevails.
Jesus was the ultimate example of God’s love. He demonstrated the perfect life of selflessness and sacrifice. The bible clearly provides the knowledge and wisdom of salvation from our selfish tendencies. God’s word reveals the true source of love. Often as I observe the world the two things that seem most hated are Jesus and the Word of God. Maybe like our little dog the world is so content in its self- absorption that there is a nervous fear of letting go of the self -made prison. We miss out on such a blessing in this life when we focus on ourselves instead of others. When we trust in Jesus and turn our selfishness over to Him the love he pours into our hearts is indescribable. Our little dog misses the blessing of enjoying the whole family in her little anxious world. Our three legged dog has this love thing down pat. Don’t let the opportunity to allow Christ’s love to fill your heart pass you by. There is tremendous freedom in giving Jesus more of my selfishness and allowing him to replace it with love. Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There are so many verses on human selfishness and on God’s love. It is hard to pick just one or two.