Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Should I Give Him The Time of Day? Part Two: Instruments

Exhaustion, busyness, lack of motivation...whatever the thorn, we all have times when keeping a regular quiet time with our creator just isn't happening.

Whether you are just beginning a relationship with our heavenly father, or you're quite familiar with him, I hope that this series titled "Why Should I Give Him The Time of Day?" will give you an extra dose of encouragement to make sitting at his feet a priority.

If you missed our first conversation last week, you can find it here:

Why Should I Give Him The Time of Day? Part One: Intimacy.

If you were here last week, thanks for coming back!  I love our weekly visits.

Instruments.  Picture your make-up bag.  Tweezers, an eyelash curler, and brushes of all sizes are probably spilling out of a pretty-colored zip-up bag on your bathroom counter.  It is jam-packed with tools that you use when you want to get fancy.  Instruments of beauty.

Our bibles are jam-packed and spilling over the sides as well.  They are overflowing with tools or instruments for every day life.  Because it's in the routine of every day life that we need him.

Patience for mothering a teething baby.  Wisdom for the girlfriend who doesn't know Christ.  Freedom for the addiction to food.  Purity for the struggling teen daughter.

The word of God is not just for Sunday morning church.  It's for Monday morning grocery shopping with small children.  It's for Wednesday afternoon with a demeaning and belittling boss.  It's for Friday evenings with no plan for dinner and a nasty kitchen.

Also, studying God's word doesn't only provide the preaching of what you should do.  It bestows the how to.  A heart beating with desire for God's wisdom is a heart that the Holy Spirit resides in.  He grants us the tools to live a life according to his purpose.

When we study the scriptures, they show us the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 13:1).  A life lived according to the plan he set out for us from the very beginning is a life that works.  There are solid purposes for patience, wisdom, freedom, and purity.

The more we study, the more we understand and appreciate.  The more we practice a life lived according to his plan, the more it becomes most excellent.

"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful..."
2 Timothy 3:16

Next Time: Why Should I Give Him The Time of Day? Part Three: Invigoration

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Should I Give Him The Time of Day? Part One: Intimacy

A spirit-filled man once said that if you are too busy to spend time with God, then you are busier than He intends for you to be.  Over the years, I've struggled with hitting pause long enough to focus on my creator.  I could say it's because I'm a stay-at-home mom and I've got three kids at home, but the truth is, there is always an excuse.  The truth is that I'm a human and that about sums it up.  I don't like to get up earlier than I absolutely have to, I procrastinate, and there is always something more urgent to tend to.

It wasn't until recently that I have truly begun to reap the benefits of a heart that longs for time with the Lord.  When I don't sit, read, study, praise, or admire, I miss Him.  I miss Him like I miss my husband who has been at work all day.  Today is the first of a three part series I will be writing and posting dedicated to answering the question, "Why should I give Him the time of day?"  Stick with me and feel free to chime in on the conversation in the comments section!

I need a regular quiet time with my savior for the same reason I need a regular date night with my husband.  The natural pace of life does not allow for connection.  My husband is a father to three.  He works a forty-hour-per-week job and also puts at least twenty hours each week into a film business that he built from the ground up (and kicks butt at, by the way).  He also adds youth leader to his resume, as he spends a few hours every week rocking out with and lifting up teenagers in our church.

As a stay-at-home mother to a four year old and two 18 month-olds, I also wear a lot of hats.  Cook, maid, nurse, counselor, teacher, professional organizer, event planner, bill payer, budget maker, photographer, bus driver, dental hygienist, meal planner, etc.  In addition to the big, floppy mom hat, I also wear a stylish writer's hat (what kind of hat would that look like, anyway?) and a ball cap that reads, "Youth Leader."  Oh, and I put in part-time hours for my husband's film business.

With those kinds of stats, intimacy is not going to independently spring up like a weed on its own.  And we are not special.  These hours and this struggle is familiar to everyone.  Whether you work inside or outside the home, whether you are married or not, whether you volunteer or not, time seems to be precious and scarce for most of us.

My husband and I set time aside for each other on the regular.  With babies and bills tugging at your apron strings, intimacy's plea will get hushed and put in the corner unless you give it a platform.  When we eat cheesecake out of the pan and gush over the latest episode of our favorite show, my husband and I find rest.  We find connection.  We give ourselves the gift of loving each other and enjoying each other.  We cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other.

I do the same with my heavenly father.  He wants a bottomless relationship with me.  He wants me to know Him.  I mean know Him.  He wants to love on me and encourage me; teach me and grow me.  He wants to grant me with encouragement and hope before the day ahead.  He wants to bless me with rest and rejuvenation after the day behind me.

Those things are fostered when we make time alone with Him a priority.  So I sit, read, study, praise, and admire.  And He loves.

Next time: Why Should I Give Him The Time of Day? Part Two: Instruments

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Secret of Gratitude

I've found a secret in Philippians.    

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:6

Traditionally I have skipped over the thanksgiving part of that scripture.  My brain zooms in on the part about never worrying about anything and I think, “Yeah. Right.”  I settle in the notion that I’ve always been a worrier and that will never change.  I settle like dust on an old unused item.  But when I dissect the verse and find gratitude, ah, now the light peaks through slightly and I’m on the verge of a revelation.  Thanksgiving.  How does it tether to anxiety? 

When we choose to be thankful for the good people and things in our lives, we are pointed straight back to our creator.  Everything pleasant, pure, and wholly good comes from him (James 1:17).  I can’t meditate on those lovely gifts given to me and not acknowledge the giver.  It’s why many of you who have experienced marital heartbreak remove your wedding rings before the divorce is final.  The gift triggers a remembrance of the one who lovingly offered it to you.  And that can be an excruciating reminder day in and day out.  

On the other hand, when I think about my Father’s gifts, the always gracious gifts from my heavenly father, it invokes an entirely different emotion.  It pushes up peace and security.  It breaks through the pain with hope for one more day.  That, my sweet friend, is how thanksgiving totally eclipses anxiety.  That is why the book of James tells us that instead of succumbing to our anxiety, we should bring our concerns and our hurts to God while thanking him for all the good in our lives.  It’s a salve for a burned heart, and if used according to the directions, it will work every time. *

At the beginning of this year, I started keeping a gratitude journal.  I write down things that I am grateful for, but might otherwise take for granted.  Sometimes it's big things like redemption and restoration.  Other times it's small things like coffee and clean underwear.  It depends on the day I'm having, because gratitude is a practice.  It doesn't come easily at first, especially in seasons when your life seems wrecked by tough stuff.  But given enough practice, you too can find that Gratitude covers a multitude of sins. 

*The first three paragraphs are an excerpt from a book I'm writing.  I hope to share it in full with the world one day.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Gifts I Intend to Give My Kids This Summer

"Get out of my house," I said very seriously and sternly.  He had been harassing me since his feet hit the floor that morning with an incessant demand to be entertained and served.  His entitlement was saturated with disrespect and I had had enough.  His blank stare told me he was taken back and confused by my instruction, so I told him to go get shorts on and play outside until lunch was ready.

The whine came immediately and it took every ounce of self control I could muster to walk over to the back door, open it, and silently point to the back yard. "Go," I repeated.

He has the misconception that it is my job to keep him entertained.  As a stay at home mom, I give him a lot of attention, but there comes a point when a child needs to be stretched.  What I want to give my kids most this summer is not an expensive vacation or a membership to the Y.  What I want to give them is Independence and Imagination.

I cannot allow the TV, Wii, or Nabi to fabricate brain activity for my kids.  I will not allow them to survive the summer on a steady screen diet of Dora the Explorer.  In fact, I don't want to hear Dora call the Map until at least September.  There will be days that I will have to fight to keep the TV off all day, but fight I will.  Because I want to see my kids hide out in the sunflower garden and pretend they are on a safari.  I want them to make sock puppets, have a race, and make an intricate city out of legos.  Dirt, sweat, and the occasional not-such-a-big-deal bruise are what make life memorable.

Our kids won't remember their favorite episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  They will remember jumping from the top of the slide and feeling like Superman.  They will remember the smell of fresh cut grass and how there was more grass in the baby pool than water.  They will remember squishing mud between their toes.

They also don't need me holding their hand while they do it.  The mind grows when you encounter a problem you have to work to unpack.  If I rush in at every adversity, when will they learn to problem solve?  For the girls, it could be figuring out how to successfully climb in and out of the baby pool without having me right there at their elbow.  For Jonah, it could be figuring out how to get that pack of bubbles open instead of having me lay out every bubble wand and tray for him in traditional OCD fashion.

My children are not old enough to be left unattended, but there is a difference between protecting and smothering.  I have a tendency to stretch "mother" into "smother."  So this summer I will be making a conscious effort to contribute to their Independence and Imagination.  The foundations we set today give them a steady foothold to becoming resourceful and creative adults tomorrow.