On Being Thankful

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Do you ever wait for it? The thank-you that never comes? It hurts, doesn’t it?

Thankfully (no pun intended) in my circle of family and friends, this doesn’t happen often, but in the larger sphere my life shares in, it happens. And I try not to, but I do notice it. Ungratefulness stinks here and I can only imagine how it hurts the heart of God to have given so much for us and to us and yet we can neglect to give Him thanks and praise.

In Scripture, being unthankful is harshly judged. There is a very long sentence in Romans 1 that fills verses 20 – 21:

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Did you know that by being ungrateful your thoughts can be useless? Unimportant. Ineffective. These words are also used to define the word futile. Further, the heart can become foolish, and darkened. A pretty heavy penalty for not appreciating the gifts freely given to us from God. All of them grace.

And in case we didn’t know, let me share, from Titus 3:3, the characteristics of a foolish heart. “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” An unthankful heart can become dark and the consequences of the behavior of that heart are tragic. Many of us have witnessed that this year.

I don’t know about you but I hope you feel like me that those kinds of thoughts and that kind of heart is definitely not the kind you want to live with. I know we are all human and being thankful “in everything,” like we are instructed to in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, can sometimes be a bit hard. Yet, I am thankful for a God that loves us so much that while we were yet sinners He died for us (Romans 5:8) and knows that it can be hard for us. He doesn’t turn away from our prayers. Even the ones that ask for help being grateful when there seems to be little to be grateful for.

In 1 Chronicles 16, there is a beautiful portion of Scripture that my Study Bible names “David’s Song of Thanksgiving.” That psalm is preceded by some history of what was going on at the time. The Ark of God was being brought to the tabernacle that David built for God’s glory. This was a huge deal and there was a very special celebration among God’s people. In verse 4, David appoints certain people to officially record, thank and praise God. Those acts are absolutely essential to honor God, to glorify Him as God. To avoid useless thoughts and dark hearts.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we are exhorted to be thankful, and we shouldn’t have to have a National Holiday to do it. But it is nice that our nation recognizes and sets apart a day to do just that.

Ladies and Sisters-in-the-Lord, let’s make this Thanksgiving very special. First start by thanking God for who He is and what He’s done for you and then intentionally thank others for the gift they are to you. I am very thankful for whoever reads and is blessed by this blog. I am very thankful for the kind comments you have shared and times you have thanked me for doing this. I do it because I love Jesus with all my heart and I love you, a very special friend and daughter of the King.   

Listen and Love

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Listen and Love

I sat back down. And on and on it went. There was something about a generator and an alternator, a circuit board and a battery. This broke down and that broke down. This kind of talk hurts me. Actually feels like a pressing weight on my heart. I did stand up to walk away, but something made me stay and listen.

If we love, we listen.

The longer the words flowed out, the softer they became in tone. It was like they were being absorbed and cushioned in the sharing. It was so amazing.

I offered some responses and they didn’t cause him to close up. It was like the time I gave him to open and pour out somehow, through God’s grace, relieved pressure that had to have building for a long time. Because I was so afraid, so bent on protecting myself from things, I didn’t think listening mattered. Just because all those things were foreign to me, does not mean that they do not matter. Especially to him, the man I love.

If we love, we listen. One of the definitions for the word “listen” is: to pay attention. To pay attention is “directing the mind to an object.” And I confess, I had some attention deficit. “You do your thing and I’ll do mine.” Thinks the woman that has a listening problem. “I can’t fix it, so do I need to know about it?” Shame on me.

Jill Briscoe tells of a real life experience that taught her something about listening. There seemed to be a woman, very negative about a good many things, and it would have been easier to shut her out. But instead, she chose to listen and this person told her later, “Because you listened to me, I knew you loved me, and because you loved me, I listened to you.”

 

Now I love my husband very much. When did I start to think that he would just keep believing that, when the listening and focus of attention wavered a bit? When I thought I just couldn’t stand to hear one more word describing broken things that I have not a clue about or cared to learn.

You may or may not have a husband that challenges your attentive moments. You may have a friend that has taxed your patience with her problems. A child or relative that you think if you hear their voice one more time you won’t be responsible for the fallout.

If we want others to experience the love of God, shouldn’t we be willing to listen?

If we love God, we must love people. And if they equate our love with our listening, we need to do a lot more listening. If we follow Jesus’ example, we need to remember His words. As His earthly ministry was getting started, He asked His first disciples, “What do you seek?” He listened to their response and invited them “Come and see…” (John 1: 38-39)

Jesus invites us and instructs us to pray. (Matthew 6:5-13) And believe me, He has no problems listening, because He has no problems loving. He loved first. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) He wants us to cast all our cares on Him. (1 Peter 5:7)

If we want others to experience the love of God, shouldn’t we be willing to ask those open-ended questions and be more than willing to listen to what they have to say, even if it is hard to hear? We don’t have to agree in order to listen to their position and maybe, just maybe, they will feel loved enough to listen to ours.

Remember Jill’s words. Remember that one of the most important things we can do for someone else is to just listen, whether or not you will be able to fix the problem or reduce the effects of it one little bit. You will show them they are loved. Because you listened.

God Bless Grandmothers…

 

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(Image by Melanie Lamb)

 

I Missed Grandparents Day…

Writing this as a kind of apology, Jesus revealing to me that I’ve been using my little kids too much. That even though we learn so very much from them, I have learned so many crucial life lessons from grown-ups too. Taking some space to share a bit of what I have learned from seasoned Christian women on this journey.

My grandmothers. On my father’s side, I have learned so much from my grandmother, Edna Grace Ludwig, posthumously. She was ill most of my formative years, so I did not have much time with her, but she certainly made up for it when I had to go through her estate after the passing of my dear Aunt Mary.

My greatest treasure is the notes she left from an exhaustive Bible Study she worked on during her later years. I have her handwritten answers to the wise instructor’s questions. No computer to write with and store her wisdom. Just pen and paper. “Spirit” duplicated worksheets, with corrections and additions from the wise hands of her discipler. My Grandma Ludwig sought God. She cherished His Word and I hope she sees that her faithfulness is a legacy that I am so extremely grateful for.

Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man (woman) who walks not in the counsel of the ungoldly, nor stands in the paths of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his (her) delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law doth he (she) meditate day and night.” (God’s Words are for all of us.)

On my mother’s side, I have learned so much from my grandmother, Clara Mae McElfresh. This “grandma” influenced me much before she went to be with the Lord. She was a caregiver. She wanted so much to be a registered nurse, yet she was able to provide nursing care that more than made up for the fact that she did not have a “degree.” I saw how she made a difference to those who suffered and I wanted to be able to do the same thing. However, she first and foremost loved Jesus. He rescued her and she never stopped praising and serving Him in the new life He gave her after she was saved.

2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

These women had struggles.

Grandma Ludwig, lost a baby shortly after he was born. She raised a son with challenging health problems; polio and a seizure disorder. She operated a small general store where she extended credit to many families who were never able to pay. I am sure she talked with Jesus about all of these heartaches and more. Those are just the profound highlights of what had to be the darkest nights. Add those to the inconveniences of getting your water from the well and doing laundry on a wash board!

Grandma McElfresh had what I have understood to be a difficult upbringing.  Yet Jesus found her and turned things around. One of my most poignant memories is watching her care for her dying husband, crying out to God to ease his suffering. I had the privilege of staying day and night with her during those first few days of grieving for her loss and they made an impact on my life that will always stay with me. Such a tear-filled gift. She also lost two sons from this earth before the Lord took her to Heaven. Again, just some highlights of her darkest nights for she also lived in a world without the many conveniences we have today.

And I could go on and on about the wonderful example my own mother, Donna Ludwig, has been of a grandma that goes above and beyond to make sure her grandchildren know they are loved and precious and that Jesus is her Lord. She is still going strong, even now that she is a great-great grandma!

Some of you may have your own stories of how much of a difference a grandmother, or older-wiser woman has had on your life. Remember them and think of how we can have an impact on those women who are coming after us.

I am finishing up a study focused on the directions God gives to older and younger women, based on Titus 2. We older women are to teach younger women to follow Jesus in all the many directions their lives take them. This is not the same world we inherited from our grandmothers. There are so many distractions from the true, holy life God requires to experience His blessings. Younger women need our guidance and better yet, our support and prayers. The example of our faithfulness will make a difference, even if that difference is realized many miles down the road.

I am going to a conference this weekend in Indianapolis, Revive ’17. Women will gather together from many places in this country and will be watching via livestream from all over the world. We will be praying and worshiping together and learning together the importance of “passing the baton” to those who will be coming after us. Please join us at this address, https://buff.ly/2y7gWhl , or go to reviveourhearts.com and see what this is all about.

Teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.

They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

TITUS 2:1-5, 10

Don’t Pick At It!

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Don’t Pick At It!

She looks like she bumped into an unyielding object, quite hard. Bruise on the forehead, abrasions on the side of her little nose and between the other eye and eyebrow. It seems she took off running, not realizing that something was in her way and BAM! Can you relate?

She knows there’s something there, even though she can’t see it and so she tries to pick it off. Only it’s not ready to come off yet. I told her “Jesus is healing it.” He has placed a protective cover over the boo-boo until it’s ready. To pick it off will interfere with healing and “He will have to start all over.” Hard concept for a two-year-old to grasp. Can be hard for us grown-ups to grasp too.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

Several lessons there, huh?

1.       There are times when Jesus heals immediately. The time when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus and Peter would not stand for it. He grabs his sword and swings at one of the soldiers and the ear gets sliced off. Well then, Jesus would have none of that, and reaches up and restores what the impetuous Peter has done. Immediate healing. (John 18:10 and Luke 22:51)

I remember a time when I witnessed my little boy jumping off the end of my bed’s footboard and heard his blood-curdling scream when he hit the floor with his little two-year-old feet and ankles. We prayed together and the tears stopped and he hopped up and played like nothing ever happened. Immediate healing.

2.       But sometimes, and it seems like most times, healing takes time. But we have to remember that time does not do the healing, Jesus does. If we leave it alone and let Him do it. If we stop picking at it and picking it back up and reopening the wounds that He promises to heal. If… and that’s a pretty big IF, we grow up a little bit in our faith and start trusting Him more. Start thinking like a grownup in Christ.

Remember, we “…walk by faith and not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7.

3.       We need to trust that God is working things out, healing what needs healed, even when we can’t see it or feel it. We must remember that just like picking at physical wounds can introduce bacteria that complicates healing, we can put complications in our own path to spiritual healing and growth. Holding on to anxiety and grief can impede recovery from wounds we have experienced, when it is possible to experience the peace of God through prayer.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6

I asked for boo-boos to pray for in Sunday school class, and this same little girl asks for prayer for the small scabs on her knees. I asked about those on her face and she says, “I don’t have any boo-boos on my face.” Out of sight, out of mind. Hmmm.

So remember, if it’s a physical injury, bring out the peroxide and antibiotic ointment, and don’t pick at it! But remember the advice from the Word when it comes to the wounds of the heart. Walk by faith until those wounds are out of sight. Pray, asking for what you need, remembering to give thanks, and then enjoy the peace of God. Don’t try to understand it. God’s healing surpasses understanding. Rest in the protection of His Spirit that guards you in every step of this journey.  

 

 

I Want the Cymbals!

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I Want the Cymbals!

Music time with my preschool Sunday school class can be a bit deafening. But one thing can be said for sure, they make a joyful noise!  I think they all want to be the one who gives the loudest praise. The two instruments that are fought over more than any others are the drum and the cymbals. So we take turns. How fun it is to watch them pound that drum and clang those cymbals. They have to be reminded to sing, but they don’t miss a beat on those two noise makers.

As much as I appreciate their “music” I can be glad when we go to a “quieter” activity. Cymbals have their place in an orchestra at just the precise second, but a consistent clanging of them can be quite unnerving.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1

So starts the “love” chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. Words are important and I love to communicate but if what I have to say is equated to a clanging cymbal, I am sure those who read my words or hear me speak would rather I just shut up. How much love is in my talk and how in the world can I say what I think needs to be said without seeming unloving?

 

I’m feeling a bit guilty about a note I sent to someone where I honestly expressed my opinion on something and it was not all that positive. I hated to do it but felt like I had to do it, you know, one of those things that bugs you so much, you just have to spill it. I’m not sure how it was received because I have not heard anything back. I still stand behind what I said, yet I wonder if I could have said it in a more loving way.

God has used this as a lesson. No matter how much I am offended by something, I need to always respond in love. Love can do hard things. Love can say, “I disagree with you.” Love can say “No, I’m sorry but I can’t fit that into my life right now.” Love can say, “Your words have hurt me, but I still love you.”

 

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

How can I love like this? A pretty tall order, huh? A kind of love that is impossible for us to do on our own. Only with God’s help can we love like we should. And with God, ALL things are possible. I know I have problems loving people like I should. I can say I feel like it is getting easier as I am getting older, but oh my, when I read what some people write or hear what some people say, the clanging cymbals of it all is enough to stir in me some pretty unloving thoughts. I want to put my hands over my ears and scream STOP!

“But Jesus looked at them and said “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27

When Jesus spoke those words He was teaching about salvation. How impossible it is for a man to enter the kingdom of God on his own. As impossible as “a camel to go through the eye of a needle…” verse 25.  Loving someone well is just as impossible without God. God is love. (1 John 4:16) How could we truly love without His help?

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There’s this little ceramic statue of Jesus that sits on a shelf across from my desk. Jesus, holding little children close. It’s a picture of the love that He has for us. Holding us close. Always holding us close. He was and is the perfect example of how to love in word and deed. And I can love that way with His help. That truth makes me hopeful.

If Jesus could love through the suffering of the cross, I can love through the times when I feel slighted or misunderstood. I can love when I am used or ignored or taken for granted. When things are going badly and we just don’t see eye to eye, I can still love.  I can always, always respond with love. It is possible because God can make it possible, YES! – cue the cymbals!

First Days, All Over Again

 

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Amy, my firstborn, with her Hollie Hobbie lunch box, 1st day, 2nd grade

 

First Days…All Over Again

I loved the first day of the new school year. It was fun and exciting to get to wear my new clothes and shoes. Backpacks weren’t around when I was little. I carried a “book satchel.” It had twisty closures and a handle. Too cool, right? I didn’t go to kindergarten, let alone pre-school. The first grade opened my eyes to so many new experiences and I got in trouble on the very first day. It’s funny how vividly I remember it. I chased a boy down the hallway yelling his name “J.J” over and over, quite loudly. He was dropping some papers and I just wanted to help. I didn’t know I was supposed to use my “inside voice.”

 

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Couldn’t find a picture with my satchel, but I probably looked a lot like this

 

 

I love seeing all the posts with the pictures of all the little ones experiencing their “first days.” Wasn’t it just yesterday I held them as tiny babies? Time does fly, doesn’t it? They can’t be babies forever, it just wouldn’t be right. They have to move on. And so do we.

With each of my four, I watched as they boarded that big school bus, knowing that they would never be the same. Their world would get bigger and I would fear that they would think less of the world I made for them at home. I wanted to protect them from everything and how could I if they were out of my sight? I learned that I could do something for them that would mean much more than following them around all day. I could pray.

 

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Matt, #2, first grade, getting ready to catch that big yellow bus with big sister

 

I could prepare for the scary stuff by bringing it to God and trusting Him to surround my little ones with protection and love. I could seek wisdom for how involved I should be in their formal education. I could follow through with a commitment to support their teachers, as they were entrusted with my most precious possessions. I could cheer my little ones on with praises for their papers and stickers and sign up on all the “volunteers needed” sheets. I could be right there with them, doing my part as they did theirs. I was “in” school too.

I certainly didn’t do it all right. Looking back, I would have this advice for those of you sending your little ones off this Fall. Your child’s teacher should be very important to you. He or she needs your prayers and support. Any good teacher will appreciate the help and will realize that cooperation at home is the key to the success of the child at school. Mammas, make sure your little ones have good rest and nutrition. A school-night should be protected and regarded as preparation for the day ahead.

 

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Mark, #3, first day of Pioneer Preschool

 

I read something so sad the other day. In some school systems a well-known washer and dryer manufacturer has donated these appliances to the schools; this is not the sad part. The sad part is that they have discovered that children who had clean clothes to wear had better attendance and participation in school. There were many homes where the children didn’t have someone making sure they had clean outfits to wear. Attendance improved because the schools picked up where the home life dropped the ball.

It all starts at home. Whether God has led you to homeschool or given you peace about sending your little ones to church-affiliated or public schools; you are their first teacher. As you keep learning new things with excitement, you are setting an example that they will follow. Learning is fun and has rewards that no other endeavor holds.

 

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Melanie, #4, first day Pioneer Preschool

 

First days are great, whether they are the first-ever days of school or the repeat first days of the new   years. Let’s start each new day as a first day. Forgetting and letting go of the mess-ups of yesterday. It does us all good to remember that awesome advice from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14:

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s go onward and upward, following the example of those little ones on their first days of this new school year. Say cheese!

Our Time Is Now

 

Our Time Is Now

“Can I just trade these and go?” Says this woman to the staff, while waving two DVDs in the air at the customer service desk at Walmart. “No, you have to get in line to do the paperwork,” was her answer.  Another frazzled female making her way behind me in line said, “Good thing I’m patient…” after she grumbled about how she had been out since eight o’clock this morning and has got “nothing” done. Which was preceeded by the story of how the other places she had already been to this morning failed her. Did I mention that the line was long? Kind of  like “the day after Christmas” size. Oh my.

I had to decide to change what would be my default reaction and try to think of another way to process this. I said to myself “when they call me up, I am going to let the lady behind me go first.” It was fun. She says, “Are you sure?” Then quickly goes ahead. Then I offered this to the next lady in line, the one with the DVDs, and she declines. She instead said something to the effect “oh no, I can wait, I shouldn’t have let that bother me so much.” We then had a pretty pleasant conversation until the staff could help us with our exchanges.

It was good. Thankfully, I was not under any time constraints, so I know I wasn’t much of a hero. Yet it was a victory over my normal way of dealing with hold ups. I’m the worst at waiting. I will drive the long way around rather than wait my turn when there’s road construction. I will get there no faster, but at least I won’t be sitting there waiting. I have enough examples to fill this page, but you get the picture. I have a problem with time; always worrying that I’m wasting it.

Time has been called lots of different things. It can be a gift, a curse, an illusion, a friend or an enemy. Each true depending on the circumstance. Something about time that is true in every circumstance is our time is now. This is all we really have. I love how Christine Caine says it in her book Unstoppable, “God has plucked you out of eternity, positioned you in time, and given you gifts and talents to serve him in this generation. Your race is now. This is your time in history.”

It excites me to think that God placed me in that line today to do that seemingly small thing and I know it changed someone else’s day. Mine for sure. He has you in this special time in history to do what you can to help others and to glorify Him. It’s just not all about us. And when the right “time” comes, He’ll pluck us out of time and put us back into eternity. The question is, what story are we writing while we’re here and where are we storing up our treasures?

Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The time we have here can add some wrinkles and wounds, the effects of the Fall. But we have to look deeper than that. We need to look for the treasure in each day that we have. Each decision to put others first glorifies God and adds to our treasure in heaven. Challenge yourself to overlook offences and extend graces in your relationships. By doing so, you’ll be racking up treasure in eternity that can never get tarnished. The only things we should be rushing to are those things that count for pleasing God and helping others. (Preaching to myself here.)

One thing that is so true about time is that it has a limit.  We can run our race, the race we are all called to run, with joy, in the time that is now.  Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) And when what we consider hold-ups in life happen, we carry out whatever would hold up to those goals for our journey here. Pleasing God and helping others.

Solomon, considered to be the wisest man this side of heaven, wrote about time. How everything under heaven has a purpose. Only those closely attached to God can have the wisdom to know when those times are and choose the appropriate way to react or respond.

Ecclesiastes 3

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to gain, and a time to lose;

A time to keep, and a time to throw away;

A time to tear, and a time to sew;

A time to  keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time of war, and a time of peace.

These are the first 8 verses, then in verse 17 the wise king says:

“God shall judge the righteous and the wicked,

For there is a time there for every purpose and every work.”

Only those closely attached to God can have the wisdom to know when those times are and choose the appropriate way to react or respond. I can only pray that I will know and trust God’s Spirit to tell me. May He always find us following Him so closely that our answers are as plain as can be during our time which is now.