Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hope for the hopeless

This is my 100th blogger post! I've been blogging for about eight or so years now using various programs, so, in truth, this is probably my millionth post.

I love to write. When I was in highschool, I also kept a paper journal. These journals are quite scary to look through. Wandering through a teenager's mind can be a frightening thing! I remember feeling hopeless. I felt different from the rest of my family, different from those at school, too- like I didn't fit in. I was a creative person, and usually expressed myself through poetry or art. Some of the things I wrote were dark and dismal, sometimes I wrote happy things, but I often wrote about being broken hearted, lost, and alone.

I grew up reading the bible, but back then, it seemed like this inspirational guide to life (with frightening, intimating stories mixed in). I read it, but there was a veil over my eyes. I still felt lost and hopeless, and day after day I would fall into bed feeling like a failure. I just couldn't live up to the standard. I was doomed.

When God revealed the mystery to me- when I begged the Lord to clean the slate... take away everything I had previously learned about the bible from others and replace it with His wisdom as I read the bible- I began to feel so much freedom. I began to see that the law is to show us that we are incapable of perfection, incapable of reaching God's standard on our own.

God began to show me how those things that were different about me, those things that made me feel like I didn't belong or fit in, were actually gifts. He reminded me that He had made each person unique, with special talents and gifts, with different attitudes and personalities.... all for a reason.

Before, I found myself dragging my guilt along side me wherever I went as if permanently chained and bound to it. The LORD set me free. He revealed the purpose of His grace and mercy.

I was trying to obtain salvation on my own- by my good works, but the LORD revealed, through his Word, that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. No wonder I felt miserable at the end of the day- I was trying to achieve perfection alone, something impossible to do without the blood of Jesus Christ.

When I think over those years recorded in my teenage journals, I think about the lostness, the hopelessness..... all that guilt... and those years I thought I was walking with Christ but I NEVER KNEW HIM.

I know there are many out there living like I was- reading and praying, but feeling like God is distant. Trying to live their lives for God, but never really knowing God. Reading the bible but never really understanding.

Faith, wisdom, and understanding come from the LORD. We nourish these things by getting into the Word and coming to Him in prayer- meeting with Him and having quiet time.

As we see in the bible, only Jesus can make the blind see. My prayer is that anyone who is struggling with their faith would really come to know and understand Jesus and the promises God has given us.

It is a miserable thing to feel the way I once did... but I know God had to bring me to the end of myself and help me understand that I was horrible at living and directing my own life in order for me to turn it over to Him!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Smile for the camera!

There are so many things I want to write about- a mixture of topics- that it's hard for me to finger which one I should approach today. Do I tell you how each time I discipline my children, I feel I'm scolding or discipling myself? (Like when I tell my son, "Sometimes you just need to be quiet and listen!" I feel God saying, "Ahem, you too.") Do I write about the sermon today which aligned so perfectly with my personal bible study and reminded me that God keeps His promises, and I need to be patiently waiting, instead of trying to force the hand (Sarai and Haggar, anyone?). How about mentioning the sweet little chatters of my children (Mommy? Can we mail the card in the cantelope [envelope] for Jesus' dirtbay [birthday]?).

Well, I don't have time to write it all out, so how about I share some of the photos I took yesterday?



The only way to get a decent photo of the munchkin was to give him something to eat, and this cookie (which I baked a couple days ago) was just the ticket!


I cannot believe how big he is getting! He's going to be FOUR soon!


And this little girl.... *sigh* Not so little!



Nolyn wanted to take some photos of me. This was my favorite of them all. :) I was having a good "face" day, as I call it. (And those days are rare! Ha!)

Brandon had to work (as he sometimes has to do on Saturdays), which is why there are no photos of my handsome husband.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

The dishwasher blues?

Sometimes you finally get where you want to be....



And then it doesn't seem so great.



(Keagan -14 months)


Thursday, November 20, 2008

HOTM meme- About us!


I'm a little late, but hey, better late than never right?

Heart of the Matter's Weekly Meme (from November 14th):

Things That Make Our Family Unique. What experiences do you have that you can share with other mothers?

1. I was homeschooled my final year of highschool (my choice). I combined my junior and senior year together, allowing me graduate early.

2. When I was younger, I wanted to be a interior designer, actress, child psychologist, and fashion designer (all at once). Instead, I became a mom, which is about 1000 careers in one.

3. I'm from a little town in Texas called Alvin. (Home of Nolan Ryan!)

4. I would love to have a dozen children. Preferably not all from one birth, though. (But I'll take as many or as few as God blesses me with.)

5. I was born at a very young age. (This is my dad's saying... and if you don't get it.. then keep reading it until you do.)

6. My husband is very talented. He can build a house, lay out a gorgeous landscape, fix toilets, invent things from scratch, but he also knows how to garden, sew, cook (man, can he cook), and put together a beautiful bouquet of flowers. His mama taught him well!


ps- What is a meme?
A "meme" is known as a question or set of questions or ideas focused on one theme. In other words, a meme is a themed blog post which is much like a customizable chain letter. One person writes about a specific theme and encourages others to do the same (while linking to the original poster).

Since so few people understand where the word comes from and what it means, it is often mispronounced as "me-me" instead of "meem" (as in theme, replacing th with m).


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Popcicle Kids Craft with Video

Here's a fun craft to do with your children. If you've recently written about a fun craft (or have posted photos or a video of a fun activity) leave me a link!









And yes, I realize I am very "country" sounding. Here are some pictures of all of our family.... in the form of popcicle kids! Yes, Nana, Poppa, MawMaw and PawPaw.... Uncles, Aunts, and... hmm, I should make one of the dog.


Here's our little family- Brandon, Mandy, Merika, Nolyn, and Keagan!


My husband and brother-in-law look very similar, so I asked my kids how I should "decorate" them so they stand apart. Merika told me, "Well, Uncle Why-an (Ryan) has a bigger gommatee (goatee) than Daddy." She's right- Brandon keeps his trimmed, Ryan doesn't. Nolyn said, "Uncle Why-an wears a hat, too. And sometimes he's got dirt on him." Also true! When we lived in Louisiana, they saw a lot of their uncle- but it was usually after work!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Proverbs 31 Wife: Mean what you say, say what you mean



Women are known for being confusing and unpredictable.

As I watch people interact in their relationships, as friends and strangers come to me for encouragement and direction, and as I look over my own marriage I see this to be true.

Women tend to be coded. So often, we say one thing and mean another. We have some married friends who go in circles. The husband seems to always be walking on eggshells as he tries to translate his wife's words and tones. His wife seems to be speaking a different language- same words, different definitions.

You know what I'm talking about.
When he asks, "Are you okay?" and she answers with, "I'm fine," you can be sure things are not fine at all!

It seems many women expect their husbands to be mind readers. Early on in marriage I learned that if I wanted or expected something from my husband, I was going to have to be very blunt about it. Subtle hints and attempts at telepathy were not going to work.

In other words, if your husband asks what you want for Valentine's Day, and you say, "You don't need to get me anything!" then don't expect to get anything for the holiday. He is only doing exactly what you told him to do!

And, if you want him to remember Valentine's Day, your birthday, or your wedding anniversary, it would be good to remind him of it a month before the date, a week before the date, and the day before the event. Our husbands have a lot of their plate. They don't intentionally forget these things, and forgetting a special occasion does not mean your husband doesn't love you.

Of course, a man can sense when something is wrong, especially when his wife is huffing and puffing, slamming cabinet doors, and banging around dishes. So why is it when a husband notices his wife is in a mood and asks, "Honey, what's wrong?" she sighs and growls, "Nothing!"

Men understand women like to be pursued during courting, but this whole idea of pursuing and pulling the truth out of their wives baffles them. Why won't she just tell him what's wrong? Why does she make it a guessing game? Why does she drag it out?

I have no idea why some women do that. I've done it myself and afterwards I think, "Was I intentionally trying to pick a fight? What result did I think this would bring about?"

We need to say what we mean and mean what we say. No word games. No mind games. We cannot expect our husbands to read our expressions or read our minds. How would we feel if we had to decode our husband's every word and action? This sort of game causes resentment to build up. It does not resolve issues.

When I am feeling needy, I have to tell my husband. When I desire my husband to be romantic, I have to tell my husband. When I am feeling offended or hurt, I have to tell my husband. I cannot wait around for him to figure it out on his own.

Likewise, when my husband wants me to do something, he kindly tells me. When he expects something from me, he lets me know. He is always loving and gentle with his words, so it makes fulfilling his request easier because I don't feel he is rudely demanding or ordering me around.

We need to remember our words are powerful- not just what we say, but how we say them... our tone. Yelling and griping rarely produces the result we desire. Beating around the bush and expecting our husbands to reach the correct conclusion will leave us disappointed (and will make our husbands frustrated)!

"Say what you mean and mean what you say" does not mean we should be rude and blunt about things that would be hurtful. Sometimes we have a tendency to spout off when we're angry- using our words as arrows that painfully wound and bruise. "Say what you mean" does not give us a right to be hostile, to attack our spouse. Words and actions cannot be unsaid or undone.

Proverbs 31 (verse 11, I believe) says "the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her". Our husbands should be able to trust that our words will be honest, but gentle- not deceptive or harsh.

A husband cannot trust in a wife who plays games with his emotions, a wife who does not speak with love and kindness.


This post is first post in a series of posts under the topic of "Proverbs 31 Woman".


Images from Corbis.com

Friday, November 14, 2008

Time flies

I've been looking through old photos, amazed by how much my children have grown. So, here's a load of precious memories I'm going to share with you. (They're in reverse order, so my children get "younger" as you scroll down.)


Nolyn, Keagan, and Merikalyn (I believe this was our Christmas photo last year)


Me (October 2007)


Sweet Merikalyn with Keagan (who was not even a day old in this photo)





A handsome Nolyn


CRAZY Daddy!


A sweet uncle (Ryan, my husband's brother)


Me, Brandon, Nolyn, and Merikalyn at my nephew's game (Brandon's nephew, really)


Playing "horsey" with Merikalyn when I stopped by after working a shift at the restaurant.


A chubby 2-year-old Merikalyn


His expression is so hilarious!


"Hello? Hello? This is not a phone, it's a cat!" :)


Oh how I miss that baby-fine hair. *Sigh* He's so big now. He was just about one and a half in this photo.


I believe this was Christmas 2005


I woke her up from a nap just before we were about to leave for dinner with Brandon's boss.... and she had found some markers, colored all over herself (even in her nostrils) before falling asleep on top of the markers!


Time flies, my friend. I was looking at photos of a bloggy friend's newborn baby- her first, and I couldn't help but think, "Wow.... wasn't it just yesterday I was cuddling my sweet little girl? My firstborn?"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

That kind of beautiful, wonderful, God-blessed day


I wish I could explain how I feel today. Words simply aren't good enough, but I'll try.

I feel like I'm sitting on the beach. A warm, sunny day. A slight breeze. Water licking at my feet. There are no worries. No frets. Cheerful giggles erupt from children building sand castles, and the sounds of the ocean seem to praise the God who made it.

That's the kind of day I've had.

No, I haven't had a day at the coast. I've been busy around our home cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, kissing booboos, playing peekaboo with the baby.... but I feel so content, even happy to do the chores around the home.

The last few weeks have been a bit stressful for me, but I feel like God gave has given me a little "vacation" the last three days, for which I feel incredibly blessed.

That isn't to say there haven't been disappointments (our van is out of commission, which isn't good), but there has definitely been more to smile about than to frown about.

I feel like so often I allow the pressure and the small let downs of my day to pull me under instead of focusing on the abundant blessings God has bestowed upon me. I am glad I can trust God with my burdens AND my blessings.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I am able to look back over this week and see is provision. I cannot help but praise the God that loves me so well and blesses me though I do not deserve it!

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

I praise the Lord stilling me with his hand, giving me patience, and lavishing me with love and kindness. How great a God that he would renew my spirit each morning in His word- a God who gives me faith, wisdom, and a desire to serve him- things that could never come from myself, but only from Him!

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. Isaiah 54:10





Please, share your stories (or links to posts) of how God has blessed you this week... or even a bible verse that He has encouraged you with!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Transformation

I think some of us have to learn the hard way. We can't just accept God's awesomeness and his promises without really making a huge mess of things before coming to the realization that we really, really need God.

That's my story. I grew up reading the bible, thinking I understood it, trying to live it. I explain it as "the God fan club". Man, I was a big fan of God. I read his book (the bible) and thought I knew him. I even prayed regularly! I went to church Sunday mornings, sometimes even in the afternoon, and on Wednesdays too.

Colossians 1 (v25-27) refers to God's way as a "mystery" (which He began to reveal to the Gentiles). I remember thinking, "How can this be a mystery to anyone today? It's all written out and neatly bound!"

It wasn't until God revealed the mystery to me that I understood. You see, the words in the bible are just words unless the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. Yes, they may be inspirational. They may give us good direction for our life, but we will never get the "full use" of the bible unless God lifts the veil of mystery.

When God began to lift that veil for my husband and I, we felt like we were being slammed left and right (and head on!) with revelations. Verses we had read hundreds of times suddenly had a different meaning. Things that weren't so clear, suddenly were. Now, God hasn't clarified the whole bible to me- it's an ongoing process, but in that first month, I remember being so overwhelmed by the information in the bible.

But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. I always believed God was merciful and forgiving, but I had the hardest time comprehending that he would be merciful and forgiving in my direction. I had no problem believing he would lavish others with his grace, but accepting that for myself was another thing.

I remember one specific moment. I remember the place. I remember the dimness of the room. I remember the feeling of hopelessness. I was so angry and frustrated with my husband. I felt like there was no way the two of us could make it. It just couldn't be.

God pricked my heart and said, "Mandy, I know your husband has done wrong, but the person you're really upset with is yourself."

It was easier for me to hold my anger against my husband, than turn my anger on myself. It was easier for me to clench my fists with unforgiveness towards him rather than realize the person I really had difficulty forgiving was myself. Somehow I knew God would forgive him for his sins, but I just couldn't grasp that God would forgive me for mine. I didn't deserve forgiving.

And in that moment, I cried, "I cannot bear this! I always make a mess of my life when I try to do it my way! How could you possibly forgive someone who is drenched with sin? I cannot make this right! I cannot fix my life! I only make it worse!"

That's when I felt the closest to God. Maybe it's because I was at the end of myself. I was so miserable. I had been miserable before- I had been living in misery for years, but this was different. I felt like it was life or death.

And then I felt like reality smacked me upside the head. I am a sinner. Not just a person who makes mistakes. Not just a person who sins, but A SINNER. Jesus died for sinners. Not for people who "have it all together", but for sinners. (And, by the way, no one has it all together!)

Sometimes we have to break down (multiple times, even) before we look up. I began to see that I would never deserve heaven. I had been living with that pain inside.... trying to "win heaven", and always crashing at the end of the day feeling beaten.

God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
I realized, Jesus didn't die for me because I'm good, he died for me because I'm a sinner. He died for me because there is no way, no how that I could possibly pay the debt I owe.

My dear children, I write this to you so you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
That moment, there in the livingroom, my husband and I confessed our sin together kneeling in front of the couch. At that moment, we were no longer lost. We were found. We adopted into his family. We were children of God.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be
called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
And then, the months following were filled with change- not just within us, but around us. We not only were moved within, but we physically moved. God brought us back to my husband's home state where we started the next "phase" of our life.

Let me tell you, life has not been the same since. I am not saying life has been peaches and cream since God transformed our lives, but I have never felt that extreme feeling of hopelessness again. We have still had hardships. Anyone who tells you giving your life to God will roll out a perfect life is telling a fib. The bible doesn't support that at all. The bible tells us there will still be difficulties- in fact, our spirit will constantly be at war with the flesh, but we are covered by the blood of Jesus, which makes all the difference.

Of course, just like any relationship, my relationship with Christ must be nurtured. When I fail to meet with him, when my plans began to trump his plans, and my spirit becomes less content. I can always tell when I haven't been praying or reading enough. I see sin slowly creeping into my life. Subtle.

Watch and pray so you fall not into temptation, for the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

I may become dissastisfied with the blessings God has bestowed upon me. I may become easily irritated and frustrated with my family. I raise my voice more, have less self-control. I begin to think of myself more than I think of others. I may begin picking apart my husband. I find myself not sleeping well.

Things don't run very smooth when I am not going to God for daily guidance. I want to do good, I want to serve God, but my flesh wants to serve myself. The only way to keep myself from falling into that is to be diligent in seeking God.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
I know sometimes we think that people don't change- and if they do, they certainly don't change in a day.... but the truth is, people do change. God transforms. When he touches our lives, he doesn't leave us like he found us!

Yet, people are slow to believe one has changed. I know people were slow to believe that in me, and I am sometimes slow to believe that of others (especially since sometimes I believe people have changed only to find out it was a clever trick).

After God renewed me, I wanted others to see the change within me. I wanted them to trust me, to believe in me, to rejoice with me- but I realized that those things take time, and so I had to allow my actions to be the proof.

Sometimes my children are denied something because they've misbehaved, and then, once they realize they won't get whatever it is, they say, "But we're behaving now!" I have to remind them that, while I'm glad they are behaving now, they need to behave all the time, not just when they want something. And it takes time for me to observe their behavior. God rarely gives us the blessing first. Usually, the blessing follows our obedience. People will know that we are transformed when they see us "behaving all the time", so to speak. We might not have really changed, but instead put on a good show of "conformity" for a while, but it won't last if God isn't in it. It won't last if it's of our own power.

The blessings of trust and friendship are what follow when people observe that our behavior has really changed. We can say that we've changed. We can say a lot of things, but our actions speak much louder than words. Our actions must be consistent and must match our words.

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (I John 3:18)
On the other end of things, I feel like we must be encouragers to those who are revealing the transformation of God in their lives. We may not be able to fully trust them, we may be watching to see if good fruit forms, but we can still love them.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
I know this is often easier said than done, because loving still requires a little trust, and when we love, we risk getting hurt, but I think about how Jesus loves and was willing to die on the cross... even for those who hung him on the cross. Jesus was willing to be crucified FOR LOVE.

So what is a little hurt compared to that?

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the
law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
I don't know if I've made much sense in this post. Probably not. But I've just been thinking about my own situation, and someone else's situation. While our stories aren't the same, they are similar enough in the trials and temptations we have found ourselves in, the heartache we've felt, and the hopelessness we've cried over. The difference is that this person is I'm on the other side of it now, and this person is "crossing the bridge" (so to speak).

I know you wish you could run across that bridge, hurry to the other side, but give it time. Focus on your relationship with God. Read the bible. Lean on the Word of God.

God doesn't always allow us to be freed from the consequences of our actions. We often have to face them- and it's never fun, but your life- and the mess you've made of it, is a testament to the greatness of God that, even though you (and I) don't deserve it, God extended his grace and mercy- he out stretched his hand to the hopeless and gave us hope. Your transformation in Christ will give glory to His Name.

If we could change ourselves, if we could earn heaven, that wouldn't glorify God at all. When we are weak and frail and there is victory in our lives- there's no doubt that God was in control.

Anyway, once again, I don't know if I've made much sense... but... just putting it out there. I'm not a theological professor. I'm not a preacher. But I do cherish the things God has revealed to me, and feel like he has asked me to share my life experiences with others to give them hope, and let them know that God does more than restore.... he revives.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Happy Anniversary!



November 8, 2002

The Fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion ;
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle -
Why not I with thine ?

[Percy Byssche Shelley's Love's Philosphy]


My husband and I have been together for seven years, married for six. There are so many things I wish I had known, really known, before I was married. I realize people tried to impart these bits of wisdom to me, but when you're young and in a whirlwind of emotional love, you are blinded. You are living in a fantasy land, absolutely positive that you won't go through those phases and issues other marriages go through. No, your love is different. Your love is true.

What I wish I would have known before I married: (Seven things for the seven years we've been together.)

1. Love is not a feeling, its a choice. The bible makes that clear in telling us to love people who may be difficult to love (like our enemies, our neighbors, etc). However, so many little girls are raised with fairy tales, and we fall into the belief that Prince Charming will whisk us away, and we will love (all together now) Happily Ever After.

2. Love is not a battlefield, or at least your marriage isn't, so quit recruiting army. Whenever my husband did something wrong, I'd run tell my parents. Of course, I wasn't about to tell them about all my flaws (though they knew them well). I had recruited an army in my friends who would tell me just what I wanted to hear and even encouraged me to leave. "God wants you to be happy," they'd say. Looking back, I am thankful for those few who told me to suck it up and work on my own issues before I tried to work on his.

3. If you're going to keep a list of all the slip-ups and failures of your husband, then you need to keep a list of your own. If we're looking for flaws in another person, we're bound to find them because everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. In the beginning of a relationship, we focus on every single lovely detail, and as we settle into that relationship, we begin to pick apart every single flaw. Somewhere in between, we must have removed our rose-colored glasses, yet we put them back on when we look at ourselves. Before we can expect our husbands to be the godly man we desire him to be, we have to be the godly wife he needs. If he's waiting for you to change, and you're waiting for him to change... there will never be any change. Suck it up. Start with yourself.

4. Don't open the door to divorce, not even a crack. Don't consider it. Instead, consider working through the issues under the grace of God. Separation doesn't lead to a "clearer mind". It rarely helps anyone correct their issues. Separation leads to more separation. Separation makes it harder to get back together. How can you work on your marriage if you are not together? How can you work on your marriage if you are living separate lives?

5. Children don't strengthen a marriage unless your foundation is in the Lord. I can certainly tell you that is true.

6. Reading and praying together on a daily basis is one of the best ways to feed your marriage. It'll keep you on the same page. It will help you be spiritually intimate.

7. Don't get caught up in keeping up with other people. You'll never be satisfied. Then, one of you, or both of you, will have to take more time away from the family to pay off those bills of things you had to have but didn't need. Instead, be content with what you have. Realize the blessing you have before you. If there's an emptiness within you, fill it with God, not more stuff. Debt is a curse.

But most of all- if I would have known God- really known God- things would have been different. Thankfully, God used our marriage, our children, the good, the bad, the ugly to lead us into His arms. God has blessed us. We don't deserve it, but he has blessed us anyway!! The things we have gone through in our marriage have given me a desire to help others in their marriage- help them overcome and succeed. I hope God will use us to help others who are struggling in their marriage. God transforms. He transformed me. He transformed my husband. I am not the woman I was when I married- and I know my husband is thankful for that! :)




Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lay aside ALL sin.

This is long, but I hope you'll take the time to read it entirely!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV]

The New International Version reads, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." It is so easy to become entangled in sin. We can look around at the churches of today and see the church itself is not only warped with sin, it condones it.

Here it says that we should lay aside every weight. What are these weights? Maybe these weights are things that are not necessarily sin, but are not encouraging the Word of God within us. These are things that distract us from God's will for our lives and maybe even hinder us from doing His will. These distractions may be your television, your computer, or sports. Maybe it's our hobbies or our job (and, let me say, there's a fine line between providing for our families and working to satisfy our greed). Maybe we are trapped in the busyness of our lives. Do we have our children involved in too much? Have we become a taxi service to their playdates and activities? Maybe, as stay at home moms, we decided to start a small business out of our home. Have we become obsessed with it? Has it taken over our duty as the keeper of hearts and home?Has it overrun our time with God?

I know I have a tendency to allow my reading and writing to get in the way of my "home blessings" (as Flylady calls household chores). I get caught up in reading articles- most of which are very encouraging, Christian writings- but fall behind in my duties as wife and mother. Maybe I fail to do the laundry, so my husband doesn't have the slacks and shirts he needs for the next day, or the dishes pile up. Whatever the case, my hobbies should come after my duties, and many times they don't.

The television use to get in the way of our family worship time when we settle down together to read the bible, sing, and pray. We had this issue a while back and had canceled cable, but since our move, we had set up an HD antenna to improve our regular digital channels. We fell back into the habit of watching shows that condoned sin, especially sexual sin, and I knew that we needed to get rid of it, but part of me wanted to keep it because, well, it's just so entertaining!

As I read my bible, I was reminded that it was sinful to take a stand against certain things that the bible deemed as sinful, but allow others to slip by while I justified them. As fallen humans, we tend to categorize sin. You know, murder is worse than sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is worse than dishonesty. Dishonesty is worse than gossip. However, in the eyes of our God, sin is sin.

So we must set aside all sin- not just some sin, or the sin we don't like- but all sin. We can't hang on to the sin that is entertaining or that we think "isn't so bad".

In I Thessalonians 5, verse 22, Paul exhorts the people to "abstain from every form of evil". We are to steer clear of every appearance of sin. This means we shouldn't be watching plays, shows, or movies that condone or laugh along side sin. This means we must encourage our children to stay pure, and help them understand what sexual sin means. We must prepare and inform our children if we want them to abstain from sin. If we haven't, they will walk straight into it.

If we are going to stand against sins like abortion and homosexual marriage (two things that seemed to be at focus in this years presidental election) claiming they are against God's will, then we must stand against all sin which is against God's will without justification and excuse. We shouldn't pick and choose. Either we follow the Word of God or we don't. Personally, I believe that the New Testament is full of essentials. We live according to the New Testament. However, the Old Testament is still full of guidance and promise. While I feel the Lord has led us to give him control over our fertility, a belief founded in the Old Testament, I do not believe this is essential to salvation for all people. Yes the Old Testament is a very important part of our bible. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 has been such a guiding light for me (as have the other chapters in Proverbs) and Psalm has been a beautiful lesson in prayer and worship. I have learned much from the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, David, and Daniel (and many more), but Jesus died on the cross and rose again- therefore the promise these people awaited in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament. (Which is another entry for another time.) I bring this up because I have heard it argued from some as to why Christians cling to some practices and beliefs but not others, citing Leviticus (OT) which is full of practices that we no longer follow today.

Our family bible study has been in Romans and has given me a lot to think over. Paul talks about the sin of the world, and I think the first chapter of Romans clearly outlines what sin is and includes. (I am not going to post the whole chapter, but I encourage you to read it yourself! If you don't have a bible you can go to biblegateway.com)

He tells the church, "They know God's law says that those who live like this should die. But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them." [Romans 1:32, NCV] The King James Version says they take "pleasure" in those who do them. (Note: This verse right here makes it clear that we shouldn't be entertained by those things which applaud sin. It so deeply convicts me to abstain from watching shows and movies that do! It could not be any clearer!)

So we know that murder is wrong. We're against it, but are we against deceitfulness? We say we are, but do we lie? Have we deceived our bosses or our spouse, even in the smallest way? One day, I went grocery shopping and saw a delicious microwaveable family dinner. I microwaved it put it in a nice dish, and hid the box at the bottom of the trash so my husband would think I had slaved over the stove and made it myself. This was deceitful! We like to think that deceit is when someone cons another person out of money or commits fraud and ends up in jail, but deceit is (by the definition given on dictionary.com) "concealment or distortion of the truth for the purpose of misleading". A little white lie is a sin. Now, my husband never asked if I made the dish. He assumed I did. He simply said it was delicious, and I thanked him, but I was still commiting a sin of omission. Even though I never came right out and said I made it, I let him believe I did. Omission, or "concealment", is a sin as well. By the way, by the end of dinner, I had told him I bought the meal from the grocery store. He told me, "I would have never known if you hadn't told me," to which I replied, "I would have!"

Paul also lays out other sins like envy and gossip. These are often sins which Christians are involved with. Remember, if we're going to claim we follow the bible and claim we hate sin, then we must hate all sin!

So we shouldn't be reading gossip magazines or websites or watching gossip shows. We should not participate with gossip with our friends or co-workers. And, we need to be careful what we say to our spouse about other people because our children are always listening. Gossip seems to thrive in churches. It's so easy to get caught up in gossip. At first, it may start out as a genuine concern for a certain person, so we share news in the form of a prayer request. We have to be careful that our prayer requests on behalf of someone else don't become twisted into gossip, either by ourselves or by others. Sometimes gossip is created to slander a person, but we have to remember that often it begins in a seemingly innocent way.

The bible says gossip stirs up trouble, breaks up relationships, and causes anger. Sometimes people intentionally start rumors to do these things. The bible says gossip is a product of a corrupt mind and a wicked heart. Here is a link to a great biblical evaluation of gossip.

Envy. Well, that's a sin that's difficult to escape. However, I have found that we are really good at putting ourselves in positions which encourage envy. For example, we watch shows or flip through magazines (or even visit blogs) that feature all sorts of items we crave and desire. We want that lifestyle. We want that house. We want want want. I stopped buying magazines for several reasons. Most popular magazines encourage sexual sin, gossip, and selfishness. We become unsatisfied with who we are, how we look, what we have, what we can do, who we're married to..... These magazines have a knack for presenting beautiful lies, and we buy into them hook, line, and sinker.

There will be times when we find ourselves envying something or someone, even when we have tried to steer away from it.

As Christians, we are not perfect. We are not incapable of sin. In fact, we will sin, but we have God's grace and mercy to cover us if we are of a repentent spirit.

I remember someone who claimed to be a Christian telling me, "I know it's wrong to do [this], but if I tell God I'm sorry, he'll forgive me." That is NOT the right spirit at all. We shouldn't walk right into sin with the mindset that God will bail us out and let it go.

Again, I want to restate my point here.

We are to abstain from all evil and all sin. ALL evil. ALL sin. Get rid of it. Get rid of it all. So you may not be able to cover up that billboard with a woman provactively posed to encourage men to visit a "special club". You may not be able to convince that woman in the grocery store to put on more clothes, and ones that aren't so tight and revealing. But you can control what is in your home. You can control what you watch, what you hear, what you say, what you do. You can control what you allow to be brought into your home and what you take out of your home. Sometimes I try to justify something by saying, "We'll it's mostly good." Mostly good is not enough. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Don't get use to sin. Get rid of sin. Don't excuse it. Refuse it!

Remember the original verse I quoted? "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..." People are watching us. Sadly, there are many people parading around claiming to be Christians while living a life that denies Christ. We are sending a message to the world that you can "do whatever you want", but that's not what the bible teaches. Christians should not be getting drunk. Christians should not be involved in premarital sexual relations (that includes "petting"!). Christians should not allow filthy words to erupt from their mouths. Christians should not be trying to keep up with the world. Christians should not be focused on material things, like getting the latest iPhone, having the nicest house, or being the best dressed (and, let me tell you, I love clothes!).

What shall it profit us if we should gain the world but lose our soul? (Mark 8:36)

Separate yourself from sin. All sin. All appearance of sin. I have to remind myself to quit making excuses and just do it. I know I miss so many of God's glorious blessings when I cling to sin.

Do you want your children to have a great foundation in Christ? Do not allow sin to permeate your home. If not for your own sake, then for your children's. You think you are strong enough to resist the temptations on your television? Are your children?

"Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." Runners don't want anything holding them back that may keep them from reaching the finish line. They want to be in the best of health. Do not poison yourself with sin. Let go of those things that, while they may not appear to be sinful, are holding you back in your service to the Lord, to your family, to the church.

I write this so I can look back on it and receive conviction and encouragement from what God has revealed to me. It is a reminder to me. Resist temptation. Refuse sin.


IT IS WORTH IT.

There is so much more I could write on this one chapter, but I'll save it for another day. I hope you have found yourself convicted and encouraged through the Word of God, as I have. Thank you for allowing me to pour out my heart... and reading it!

photos property of mandymom.com

Monday, November 3, 2008

A few slices too many

If you tell a boy he can have some bread....


You might want to specify how many.