Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When God messes with your heart...

God has been really messing with me lately. As in heart, mind, attitude... Saying stuff I really don't want to hear, much less put into practice. What I want to do is to stick my fingers in my ears and sing 'la la la la' while pretending I don't hear Him. Honestly, I have told Him that I am not at all liking what He's telling me, what He is asking me to do.

For instance my morning devotion began with the verse from Matthew 4, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Now I don't have any outright enemies but there are a couple of sandpaper people in my life right now that my Molly self wants to march right up to and tell them how I REALLY feel about their behavior. Of course, God immediately brought them to mind when I read that verse this morning.

Really, God? You mean I have to pray for them? I have to love them? Even though they don't seem to be likely to change? I can't pretend they aren't in my life?

I know the correct answer to these questions. I knew before I opened my devotional this morning. But knowing the right answer, the right response doesn't always result in a immediate obedient action. God knew I was struggling in this area and He needed to give me some reminders. As I came to the end of the devotion these statements stabbed me right in the heart.

     "True love is expressed when we have a person's best interest at heart, even when the person has hurt our feelings or treated us with contempt. ...when we wholeheartedly commit to treating others in a way that is in harmony with God's will, we reflect God's love to the world around us."

Isn't that what He asks of His followers? To reflect His love to the world around us. It is easy to read about others who have turned the other cheek, so to speak, and in doing so lived out the reality of Jesus Christ. Stories abound of hardened hearts softened by the loving actions of a Christ follower. But y'all, when the rubber meets the road in this gal's heart and I am faced with the choice to keep showing love to one with a bitter and hardened heart, it is NOT easy.

However, as one who proclaims Jesus to be not just my Savior but also Lord of my life, I have no choice but to obey. Hard as it is, knowing that what I cannot do on my own is possible through Him.

And so today, that is the choice I have made. I am sure God will continue to mess with my heart on this one. Because we both know my stingy little heart. I am so grateful He wants to change it to love like His great big one.

I'm listening, God. Keep messing!


***What is God messing with your heart about? Whatever it is, I encourage you to listen to Him and allow Him free rein in your life. Even though the things He asks us to do are, at times, extremely difficult He is a rewarder of those who are obedient. Trust Him. You won't be disappointed!***

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Legacy of Words

Two books held place of prominence in my maternal grandparents' home. One was a dictionary, the other a Bible.

The dictionary was not your ordinary household dictionary. No mere Webster's Collegiate version, this book was huge! It was prominently displayed on a living room side table, my Poppy used it frequently. An avid crossword puzzle fan, he was unlikely to leave a puzzle incomplete with this massive resource at his fingertips. I remember being amazed at the sight of so many words. In my young mind I thought it to be as vast as the stars. Poppy's love of words and crossword puzzles were passed to my mother who also later inherited the dictionary.

I do not remember the Bible being as prominently displayed in their home but I do remember my grandmother talking about God and referencing His Word in her conversations. It was common for the discussion to turn toward Him when the women of the family gathered to prepare a meal or clean up afterward. Her Bible was in one hand, purse in the other, when she walked the dirt road from her house to church. Mommy Georgia's love of God and His Word was also passed to my mother.

She, in turn, birthed the love of words and God's Word in me.  One of my favorite memories is when the monthly Readers Digest arrived in the mail. Mom and I would first turn to the Word Power section, each write our answers to the questions and then compare to see who got the most right. Although I could sometimes tie her score, I never won. After all, she was the school teacher! She encouraged me to learn new words and to use them. I don't believe she could conceive that I would ever settle for less.

More importantly, Mom taught me God's Word. Mixed with the usual childhood stories like Hansel & Gretel, she told me stories from the Bible. As I grew, she showed me where to find these stories and encouraged me to read God's Word for myself. I heard her preach His Word as she was also a pentecostal preacher. She is the one who taught me about Jesus.

Now I find myself thinking about how I have worn the mantle of this legacy and what I am doing to pass it on to future generations. My initial response is to think they did a much better job than I have done. But when I take time to really think about it, I realize they were just like me. Parenting the best they knew how and passing on their love of words and the Word through the way they lived.

This legacy of words touched other lives beyond our family and so it continues. Whether it is in the role of parent, grandparent, or friend, by written word or spoken, I pray that I will be a worthy conduit.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yours, Mine and Ours

I first heard this phrase in 1968 when the movie Yours, Mine and Ours came out the first time. Starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball it told the story of a widower with 10 children and a widow with 8 children who, after getting married, try to navigate the stormy waters of a blended (very large) family. The movie was remade in 2005 with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo.

In the years since, this phrase has become synonymous with blended families where each parent brings children from previous relationships into the new family and then decide to have children together. However, real life tends to be less humorous than those depicted in the two versions of Yours, Mine and Ours. For every family that survives and thrives, many more fall apart and the repercussions remain for a lifetime.

The central issue in many disagreements is which parent controls the discipline of the children. It can be difficult for a parent when their biological child is disciplined by their spouse in a way they do not agree with. On the other hand, children often use this very same emotional tie with their biological parent to try to drive a wedge between their parent and the step-parent. At the heart of the matter, it is a battle for control.

While I relate yours, mine and ours most often to such blended families, I find it describes the battle within my own heart when it comes to surrendering control of my life to God. I divide my life into categories. Some I readily give to God without question of His control and guidance (Yours). Others I want to share control with Him (ours) as though He needs my help. In reality I simply want to give input and suggestions, taking control back when I don't think He is going fast enough or in the right direction. Still others I cling to so tightly that they are all mine. At least I have deluded myself into believing that. Actually, He is in complete control of all of my life. He sometimes simply chooses to let me have my headstrong way until I make such a complete mess of things that I have no choice but surrender. I know I still have a way to go before I can honestly say to Him it is all Yours.

Thankfully, I am a work in progress and He is the Master Engineer. After all, He created me and knows me intimately. He knows exactly what life circumstances are needed to loosen my grip, to willingly surrender control. Some come easily, others with much pain and struggle. However, with each step it gets easier and on the other side? Peace. Contentment. A more pliable vessel that He can use to fulfill His purpose. A common life that He transforms into an Uncommon life.

The journey (and story) continues.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Reading

I love to read. I believe my love of words and reading come from my mother who first read to me and then encouraged me to read. As a child I found I could be transported into other places and other times, simply by opening the pages of a book. The Little House on the Prairie series and Nancy Drew were favorites as well as Pippi Longstocking.

I still can become so absorbed in a book that everything around me goes unnoticed. I find myself identifying with the characters to the point that they seem to be real people. Like so many who read Jan Karon's Mitford series, I feel like I could really walk into Mitford and find Father Tim having lunch with his friends.

The shorter days of winter give me an excuse to curl up more often with a good book which is what you would have found this week had you peeked inside my home. I just finished "Her Mother's Hope" by Francine Rivers. First of a two book saga about the relationship between mothers and daughters, I simply found it hard to put down. Using her own family history as a foundation in writing this series, Francine brings life to her characters making it easy for the reader to identify with their struggles, emotions, hopes and dreams. I highly recommend it and will be purchasing book number two of the series online tomorrow!

For those of you who love to read, here are a few other books I've read in the past months that I believe are worth your taking a look at:

     Fiction:    Dogwood by Chris Mabry ( WVa author with the book's setting in WVa), Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron, Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth, A Slow Burn by Mary DeMuth, Life in Defiance by Mary DeMuth,The Mailbox by MaryBeth Whalen, Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon.

     NonFiction:  Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick, Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad, by Shari Braendel, Communicating For a Change by Andy Stanley, Radical by David Platt, Thirsty by Amy Nappa, The Prodigal God and The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, Thin Places by Mary DeMuth, and Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado.

Have you read any good books lately that you would like to recommend? Then share your thoughts with us by commenting below.

Happy reading through the long nights of winter and...


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Marriage and the missing L

Confession is good for the soul, right? Or at least that is what I've heard. In the case of today's post it is meant to be an encouragement (or perhaps a bit convicting) to those of you who struggle with the whole submission thing in marriage.

Now don't go getting the idea that I am a dominating and nagging wife to a hen-pecked husband. Not even close! However, God has convicted me more than once over the years when it comes to my critical nature and desire to control everything. Definitely both areas where He has had to smooth rough edges and dull many sharp points. And, thankfully, He is still working at it! (Wish I could say He completed His work and I am now the best, most godly wife created..........I'm NOT!)

Recently I had yet another of those "Ah-Ha" moments when I read about the difference between being a competer of or a completer to my husband. Take away one letter and it makes a huge difference in how I fulfill my role of wife. Without that 'L', I am fighting for control, wanting to call the shots, make the decisions. It makes me question my husband's motives.  Resent his authority. Disrespect him. Not exactly the makings of a happy marriage. Quite the opposite, it lays the groundwork for dissension, arguments, and a disintegration of my marriage.

Add the 'L' and I become a completer, fulfilling my role as God intended. From the beginning, God's plan has been for the wife to be a helpmeet for her husband. (Genesis 2:18) As a wife, I am to respect my husband and that means allowing him to fulfill his role as God intended. I am not the head of the house; he is. Does that mean I don't have a say in decisions that impact us? Of course not. It does mean that if we don't agree, he gets the final say.  It does mean that when I disagree with him, I should wait until we are alone to discuss it. I shouldn't disrespect him in front of others by correcting him or by making sarcastic remarks. I should count to ten (or higher if necessary) before opening my mouth when I am irritated by his behavior. (I find that most of the time my irritation is quite simply caused by looking at his 'fault' so that I can ignore my own.)

Each of us have different things we struggle with when it comes to our role of wife. This is just one perspective that God has given me and I pray that you will consider it as well. Being the forgetful person that I am, I intend to post that one word, COMPLETER, in areas around my home where I will see it frequently. I know that I will need the reminder each day to be my husband's completer. This will please him, enrich my marriage, and most importantly, please my Heavenly Father.

Won't you join me?

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