Monday, February 23, 2015

The Book of Micah - Prophet of Promise!

Most prophets declare the coming 'doom and gloom' because of the sin of mankind. And indeed, Micah, an Old Testament Prophet around 735 BC, did have harsh words against sinning and the destruction it would bring. But, surprisingly to me, Micah spends a lot of his time sharing about the coming of Jesus and the promise of good for those who choose God and obey.

Reading Micah

I must say after reading Isaiah and Amos, I was so happy to read Micah. Matter of fact, I spent almost all of last year in Isaiah chewing over it slowly, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. I would say it is a serious book of the Bible because the largest portions of Isaiah teach about the coming punishment/judgement for sin.

I love how the books of the Bible have a personal flare; the author--though each were inspired by the one and same Holy Spirit to write--gives his unique voice, as each other should! Too many authors today try to follow a formula that has been successful in being profitable and this is pushed by the fact that publishers seek authors that follow the formula for recent success. But it is my belief, if a person has to labor too much over voice/style, they are not being genuine and therefore they have failed themselves regardless of the amount of audience or success they achieve.

Micah, like Amos, is called by God to be a prophet out of the countryside. The Bible does not tell us his previous profession before he became a prophet. We simply know that he was obedient to God, and spoke what he heard, and gave his own response, particularly when God asked for one. I do not like to go to outside sources (extra-Biblical books) to discover more about a book I am reading because I don't want to be influenced by another human until I have gleaned all that I can from the Bible itself. So I have nothing more to share with you than what is disclosed within the Book of Micah.

Arise In Micah

Three times in this book I read the word 'arise'. I am sure this stands out for me since this year God gave me the theme of 'rise' for 2015. In Micah 2:10, God says,
"Arise and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is defiled, it shall destroy you, even with utter destruction."
In this first time 'arise' is used God has just explained that the cause for His coming judgement is sin.
"Woe to those who devise iniquity and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance." (Micah 2: 1-2)
But quickly after God issues this warning and tells His people to arise, he gives a promise of future restoration:
"I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many men. The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, pass through the gate and go , out by it; their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head." (Micah 2: 12-13)
All too often we think of the remnant as being such a little group but God says, "they shall make a loud noise because of so many men." Does that not make your heart want to shout, "Glory to God!" Jesus, the LORD, will be at their head leading them. He truly is our good shepherd.

In Micah 2:10, God is warning His people that they have sinned and are living in sin. He calls for them to arise and depart. Through sin they have lost what was given to them and generations prior to them. God gave them the land, but they are to keep it on the condition that they remain obedient and honoring to Him. Is this not a stark warning to the church of America? We cannot pretend to play church and think that God is going to be pleased. He is looking for us to minister to, teach and heal those around us. Too many get cozy in the world as though this world was our resting place, but we need to keep an view of our eternal home always in mind. God is our inheritance - nothing on this world can substitute for Him.

The second 'arise' comes at the end of chapter 4:
"Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion; for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hooves bronze; You shall beat in pieces many peoples; I will consecrate their gain to the Lord, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth." (Micah 4:13) 
This bizarre sounding statement can only be understood by cross-referencing a few Old Testament verses.
Isaiah 41:14-16 - "Fear not, you worm of Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you," says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; you shall fresh the mountains and beat them small, and make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them, the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them; you shall rejoice in the LORD and glory in the Holy One of Israel."
 Daniel 2: 44 - And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand forever."
Isaiah 18:7 - In that time a present will be brought to the LORD of hosts from a people tall and smooth of skin, and from a people terrible from their beginning onward, A nation powerful and treading down, whose land the rivers divide--to the place of the name of the LORD of host, to Mount Zion.
Zechariah 4:14 - So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the LORD of the whole earth."  
God is speaking to the Church. This is a messianic verse that shall come in due time when Jesus returns for his second coming. We know this because many of the verses that follow; the whole Chapter 5 that follows is speaking of the Messiah. So this transitional verse ending Chapter 4 eludes to the days to come when the Church, True Believers of Jesus, will arise and by His power thresh her enemies on earth. God will give the ability by turning the horn into iron and hooves into bronze. The Church will only be able to fight because they allow Him to enable them. The enemy of God will be destroyed and all that remains after the threshing will be His church which will be consecrated unto Him as Holy.

It is so hard to remember-- in this world of so much fighting, evil acts, horrible plots of humans against others--that God is LORD and in control. That when the time has come the enemy of God will easily be destroyed by His power. We do not ever need to fear what God's enemy does. We need to continually renew our mind recalling that God is completely sovereign.

The third arise is in Chapter 6:
"Hear now what the LORD says, "Arise, plead your case before the mountains and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, O you mountains, the Lord's complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel." (Micah 6:1-2)
In this final arise God almost mockingly tells Micah to plead Israel's case to the mountains and He will plead His against Israel. History tells God's case against Israel and His Church. Over and over again the whole world has seen God rescue and redeem Israel from enemies, bondage and heartache, but they over and over again return to their former ways of rejecting Him and His teachings. And what does God ask of His followers?

Micah 6:8 tells us:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?
God speaks to us and wants us to answer for ourselves why we chose to sin. He wants us to be accountable and to think about what causes us to sin. He will help us if we ask, but he wants us to reason and identify what in our life is causing us to not do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. He wants us to recognize our guilt, to repent and to be forgiven so that we can be with Him again. How amazing! That after all the sin we commit God still longs for a relationship with us. We would have chucked that kind of person away and never thought about him/her again. But God is unrelenting; His mercy is unending; His love has no limitations.

Unbelievably God pleas with us to draw near to Him. How humbly ashamed we should be that we have been a harlot running after the world but He still want us. We have no excuse, no case to plead. We only have a reason to beg for forgiveness and mercy.

While there is so much more that can be gleaned from Micah, this is the good news I have learned today that I am sharing with you.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Book of Amos - Judgement, Yet Promises

The Book of Amos is a pretty small Book of the Old Testament in the Bible.

Will we be fruitful for God?
Not surprisingly, today we rarely, if ever, hear a sermon based on the Amos because the majority of the book is telling about the judgements of God. "Sin, Judgement, and Repentance" fall into the "doom and gloom" theology of old that no one wants to hear about anymore. Yet, simply because it is not taught about does not mean it goes away. God's Word is Eternal, and what He says shall come to pass regardless of whether we read about it or believe it.

Amos began life as a shepherd, 

until God spoke to him and asked him to Prophecy to both Judah and Israel. I am certain his job as a herdsmen was much easier. Dealing with animals can usually be more peaceful than communicating to humans. Besides a "bah" here or there, or a nudge. You can't get into too much interpersonal conflict with a herd. You also spend a lot of time alone and in nature, so you are able to communicate to God, if your heart so desires. But, Amos had a complete change in career. He went from the life of a daily shepherd to the challenge of telling people God's displeasure with how they were living. He became a shepherd of a different sort, a shepherd of rebellious people.

God makes it clear that he will judge sin:

You--only have I known (or chosen)--of all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:2)
The more you know God, when you become part of His family and sit under his teachings, you will be held to a higher standard: all of your iniquities will be punished. Since you will know more clearly what is sin and what is not, God will hold you accountable for what you know. Children and young adults raised in a church with godly parents, need to take heed of this warning.

In the Book of Amos, God proclaims judgement on many: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah and Israel.

But consider this interesting point:

You cannot have mercy without judgement. Read that again: "You cannot have mercy without judgement." Just as there is no need for forgiveness or grace without sin, there is no need for mercy without judgement. A debt must be owed, before it can be paid or cancelled. Thankfully, God's grace is sufficient. We can never out-sin God's ability to forgive us. His grace abounds, even more so, to those who need it, and especially to those who recognize their need. 
His Grace Abounds to Us

The Angels will never know what it is like to be forgiven and to be restored by God's grace. But as humans, we can know God in this intimate way. We can know Him as our Restorer. We can love Him for redeeming us and wanting a relationship with us even though we are sinners.

God looks to each new generation to make their own decisions for their family:
I will not turn away Its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray. Their lies after which their fathers walked. (Amos 2:4)
I have a strong affinity for first generation Christians. I am one, therefore, I know it is not easy to turn from the way you were raised to build a family on design that is new to you. It takes great commitment and a lot of study to know God's Word. As always I am thankful that God is merciful and will add to what we do; He will make up (provide grace) for areas that we are short and He will correct points that we get wrong. We simply need to walk by faith that He is bigger than we are, and much more capable.

If you turn to God, and lead your family in His ways, you are not held accountable for the sins of your fathers. Every individual has an opportunity, no matter how they were raised or what horrible things they have experienced in life, to make their own personal decision to follow God and to receive His promises.

But beware, God is not fooled by half-hearted lip service. 

He knows whether you are gathering at church to socialize or to dedicate your life wholly to Him. He knows if a church is all about building an organization or about ministering to each member that makes up the living organism of a vibrant relationship with God community.

He says,
I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. (Amos 5: 21-23)
God sees the motives of our heart. He looks deeper than we can. He pierces into the soul and knows the heart intent.

God Sees Deeper than the Outside. 

Look how He will separate the church:
For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among the nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword. 
Jesus tells a parable about the smallest of seeds -- a mustard seed. In Matthew 12: 31-32, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

Mustard Seed of Faith

Jesus explains that all it takes is to have faith that He is God - Lord and Savior - the size of a mustard seed. God brings the growth; He is faithful to complete us. So when God sifts the church not even the person with the smallest grain of true faith shall fall to the ground. If we confess our sins to God, and trust Him for forgiveness, He will most definitely save us. Our sins will not bring about our eternal death. We will grow and be useful to others, just as the birds rested in the branches of the mustard seed when it had grown.

So God does not give these warnings to make His faithful followers fret. We are to warn others who are ignoring His Word, but we do not need to be uncertain of our future. Twice the Lord says in Amos, "Seek Me and live." (Amos 5: 4 and 6). Still, God is very clear when he issues His judgements to explain that punishments are coming, "'Yet you have not returned to Me,' Says the Lord." God wants us to repent: to turn to Him and change our ways.

Anyone who studies God's Word, knows that he does not end prophecy with judgement but always gives hope for the promise of restoration. After God sieves the church, His people, He promises to "repair its damages," to "raise up its ruins" and to "rebuild it." (Amos 5:11)

Gentiles Included

And then God says a most marvelous statement. In this promise of restoration of Israel (the first chosen people in days of old), God claims that they will possess the remnant, along with "all the Gentiles who are called by My name." Many people miss the places in the Old Testament that show God always intended for the Gentiles (non-Jews) who decide to be called by His Name to be included in the covenant promise and to have restoration from sins and eternal life.

And so I will end with God's own words given as an eternal promise at the end of the book of Amos:
"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seeds; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God. 

As Christians of today, 

we need to recognize our power to rebuild wasted, bankrupt cities and inhabit them. We can restore places that sin has destroyed and make them fruitful again. We need to be open and obedient to what and where God calls us to minister and to be open to being a little seed of faith that can be grown by God to be a tree that can provide shelter to others.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Submission - Who Do You Submit to?

Submission is a noun. The end.

Who do you submit to?

Don't you wish submission could stop there? I do sometimes. Well, that is, if it is me being asked to submit. Long ago in being trained in a literally Biblical church (some would call it legalistic, I might even today), I heard a lot about "submission". Some of it was truth that can be supported by the Bible; some of it was hogwash that was even cruel and chauvinistic, although it was taught with all sincerity and with a good heart intent.

We all submit to someone. Even if that someone is ourselves. But, often we submit to people, and frankly, what they ask us to do is sometimes not right or good for us.

The very good news is that ultimately the only person in life that you and I ever have to be totally submitted to is GOD! Whew! And that is very, very good, because God is not cruel or chauvinistic. Anything He directly asks of you will be for your good and at the right time. He knows what you need and when you need it. (Now, I am not going to have time to teach mutual submission of believers and submission of a wife to her husband since he is serving her sacrificially as Jesus gave His life for the church. Those two are completely two separate articles that can be followed up on.)

This is the HUGE difference between legalism and a personal relationship. In legalism, religious leaders study the Bible and prayerfully discern what all church members should obey. Basically they outline rules that according to their best understand they believe are Biblically sound and therefore they deem these rules should be followed by everyone in the church. Overtime these rules can be added to or subtracted, but most commonly added to and even many years down the road people can even forget the original reason why the rule was instituted. Everyone simply knows if you attend that particular church it is what is acceptable or not.

For example, 

in one church my husband and I attended the preacher was talking about how men should not be wearing yellow ties. Well, everyone in the church was in all agreement and know what to think when he mentioned it in passing during a sermon. But, then, I noticed my husband sitting in the row wearing a yellow tie and I was staring at his tie having no idea what sin was being committed and where in Scripture the yellow tie had fallen from grace. It was the same church that had people pogo dancing in the front during service and that preached against the trinity. Needless to say, we didn't attend again. However, still today, I have now idea what was wrong with yellow ties. Even though all the men from this church submitted to the "no yellow tie" rule, it was manmade and not something God asked each person to not do.

While this is a true example and a very odd one, any rule handed down by a church as a "given rule" for all that is not explicitly taught in the Bible is legalist and not commanded by God. Over the years, and through many denominations, my husband and I have submitted to various legalistic rules in order to be honoring to a church that we decided to become a member of but not because God specifically called us to have that rule in our life.

Submission leads to one important question. 

Does someone else know what is better for me? For me that answer is absolutely, YES! God is that one person that know what is better for me. God has a destiny of greatness for you, me and anyone willing to accept His call on our life. Matter of fact, our lack of submission limits God's ability to do great things in and through us.

So, for me, again, I will say, there is only one person in the whole wide world that I will unconditionally even try to submit to and that person is GOD. I try to surrender to His Word when I understand its clear teaching and to His voice when I hear it within my spirit.

Submission to God is good, positive, healthy and life-bearing. I have learned this from the Bible but also lived it as an experience since I became a Christian. And like everything I do, submission is a work in progress in my life. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sacrifice and Servant - Motherhood, Sisterhood

The truth is I do not know the first thing about sacrifice and servanthood. I like to pretend I do. I talk like I do and I can give accounts in my life when I have both sacrificed what I wanted and served others. And in fact, it is true that I have done both at times in my life. But it is not natural for me. In the moments when no one is looking but God, I often am irked that I am asked to do something that is not what I was hoping to be doing.

Being asking to do something can be a literal pain in the neck!

I want my own time and I want to do what I want to do. 

This core desire run complete perpendicular to God's desire for me and my life. So when I am interrupted, cutoff from my intended direction, asked to wait because someone else needs or wants something, who am I fighting with? What am I fighting with?

Selfishness is a core sin that compels us to do so much. In a survival sense, selfishness can be lifesaving, but only if you are alone. In life on earth being alone is a rarity. So everyone all day long gets opportunities to make a choice, am I going to sacrifice and be a servant to God and others or am I going to do what I want to do.

And I do not know about you, but I can get angry, really ticked off, by the simplest thing that I might be asked to do. Matter of fact, big things can be motivating; they can stroke our ego that we are needed or wanted to tackle a job that others are not able to do. But not emptying the cat litter, or folding a load of laundry or cleaning a toilet! Even preparing dinner night after night gets very mundane for me, especially since I have a very limited number of items that I can make that please my family.

I want to be free. I just sang songs at church this morning about being free. Jesus sets me free. And then I walk in the back door and get asked to do a menial task and my insides crash. I want to explode because I was already planning how my next few hours were going to go. And taking 15 minutes to do something for someone else was not calculated into that plan.

What a hypocrite! 

Is God using this to show me that I am not all that I think I am. Or even worse, now I remember something I prayed at church today. I asked God to show me my sin. Oh, boy, I knew how horrible that felt the last time I asked God to do that about 25 years ago. What in the world... that is just it... it was not of the world. That prayer was Holy Spirit inspired, because I would never have asked God to do that!

Ugh! So is this what it is going to be like? Is God going to once again, show me my sin? I didn't like it before and now it will be even worse, because I am suppose to be a pretty mature Christian and my sins are going to show me just how unlike Christ I really am.

"Be gentle with me God", I say to Him in my spirit. "I know what you can handle", I hear Him say back to me. "I know", I resign.

If you have been reading my blog posts, you know that this year God's theme for me is "Rise". Never in my wildest imagination did I think it could mean that like in the refining process of silver when dross rises to the top to be removed by the silversmith, that God is going to begin 2015 by rising my sin up to the top. But here I am, and the process has begun. I have been set free, but I am set free to grow to become Christlike. Alone with God is the crucible of where and how I grow so that I can joyfully serve others.

I am set free, and alone with God is how I grow, to joyfully serve others.

God, forgive me for being selfish. 

Help me to find ways to sacrifice and serve others in little ways, even if they never realize what I have done. Help me to me a silent servant--one that does not need a spotlight in order to "perform" but one that is satisfied to act with you alone as her audience--an audience of one, for you alone.

Monday, January 26, 2015

How To Not Feel Like a Failure

It is easy to fail.

We all have heard that in order to succeed a person must learn how to fail. We all hope we can learn to fail forward, instead of digging a hole and falling into it.

Parenting, like all challenges in life, can feel like we are on slippery ground.

Failing and feeling like a failure are to different things.

As a mother, I can reflect back to different times in my parenting life that I failed to be the mother I wanted to be. For example, I said or did something that would have been better to not have been done. None of us can rewind time. What we can do is repent, that is asking God and others for forgiveness, but also forgiving ourselves. And in repentance, we follow through with a change in our behavior, continually turning from our sinful ways toward the way God wants us to live.

Also as a mother, it is easy to look at our children and assume if they are doing well in life, we succeeded; however, if they are not, we have failed. Neither conclusion is appropriate and true.

Our success as a parent depends on our obedience to God. Did we daily--moment by moment--trust and obey HIM? And when we did not, did we repent? If you can answer yes to these questions you succeeded as a parent. But even if you know there were times that you refused to repent and ask for forgiveness, God's mercies are never ending. It is NEVER too late to ask God for His forgiveness and grace.

We can only be personally accountable to God for our own life. We cannot take on the choices of others and allow that to make us feel like a success or a failure.

Don't listen to the voice of your enemy that will speak words of condemnation. It is your fault. If you blah, blah, blah or if only you didn't blah, blah blah.... Every person has the ability to reach out to God and receive HIS grace.

Joel 2:12 says, "Even now says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart."

That is an open invitation of acceptance and redemption for everyone!

Of course, we can be heavily burdened when someone we love is making the wrong decisions, but we should never let it drive us to feel like a failure. We can't make decisions for another person; each of us are personally responsible unto God.

What we can do is to continue doing what is good in the sight of God! Prayer is an antidote that repels the thoughts of feeling like a failure. It aligns our hearts to God's and is the highest, most important work we can do.

We need to bind the enemy's works of darkness and deception, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation of Jesus Christ to the hearts of people. Ask God to have mercy on the one dear to your heart, to draw them to repentance.

Repentance and forgiveness cultivates the soil of our heart for God to grow us.

And love! Love unconditionally, continually forgiving one another, keeping a pure heart before the Lord.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Who Is Using Who? Hypocrite or Honor?

Relationships are challenging. We cannot see into someone else's brain so we do not know the motives of another person. Though we are pretty quick to guess or assume, if people do not genuinely (truthfully) communicate, we have no real way to know them as a person or to understand their motives. In communicating to someone guarded, it is easy to hurt them by assuming we know why they did or did not do something.

For example, if someone does not call or answer to messages sent, is it because they are upset, do not want to talk or maybe they have messed up so many times in the relationship they simply do not want to mess up again. In reality, no one knows but the person himself. We can all come up with different assumptions.

Unfortunately, when a person does not share, they leave themselves open to many assumptions. It is natural for humans to fill in blanks. It is the way our mind is programmed to work. Look at this:

U_d-rstan_i_g   w_at   _s  writ__n  c_n  b_  fi_l_d   _n   b_  o_r    br__ns.

It does not always work for everyone but most people find "understanding what is written can be filled in by our brains." We do it naturally all the time without even realizing it. Our brain looks for logical connections that we have experience with to fill in the gaps.

But, is it hypocritical to assume you know what someone thinks or what their motives are when your conclusion does not give the person the benefit of the doubt to being honorable?

My husband has the amazing gift of assuming the absolute best about everybody and everything in all situations. It is a wonderful way to life and often people are blessed by his outlook, because he sees the best in people. He sees what God sees. He sees what they could be or will become if they surrender to God in their life.

So, when people call my husband because they know how he will respond, is that because they are using him or is it because they genuinely are honoring his gift. God alone is able to know a person's motives. When I think a person may be acting hypocritical or may be using my husband, is it possible that he is a person's last hope? He is a safe place. He is an answer to people who need a place to turn when everyone else has been fed up. He is full of mercy and grace.

And, is that not just like God?

Today, I was thinking the person contacting my husband was a hypocrite, because after ignoring my husband for months he called him when he needed financial help. However, I think God is showing me that the hypocrite might be me because I see that my husband is responding more often like Christ. My husband tries to see every contact as a possible opportunity to show someone Jesus and to help draw them to God.

Oh, God give me the wisdom to know when to say "yes" and when to say "no" and most importantly, when to be silent. Help me to see the best in people and to not be so prone to being critical. In the end, give me Your eyes, ears and heart for people.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Name This Year - 2015!

Every year God normally gives me a theme: one word that sums up what I am going to be learning, experiencing, etc. Last year it was Hope. I didn't share it big time because frankly Pres. Obama had made such a mess of the slogan "Hope and Change" I really didn't want to be part of his slogan. But silly me, God gave us hope that was real long before a liar gave America a hollow promise that sounded good for political purposes. Worldly hope is wishing an uncertain comes true; it totters on a sandy foundation with blind, groundless conjectures. But godly hope is based on a Living God; it enlivens and comforts those who are well grounded in the certain hope of salvation and lived through a life of obedience in the soul of the believer. We have a certainty of fulfillment and can have a ever- deepening daily fellowship with God now! 1Peter 1:3-5 says,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

If I look back on Facebook or even in my blogs, I could probably find a post written at the end or beginning of previous years telling what the new yearly word I had been given.

I look back on 2014

and think how did it bring me hope or teach me hope. I am not sure how to sum up 2014, but if I was thinking back over it the word hope would come to mind.

We did finally find a church home, Experience Church, in Murfreesboro after 3 years of not having a church family that we belonged to. This is something I am so grateful for because it has restored my hope that churches do exist for the purpose of taking care of the least of these, reaching outward to those in need more than inward as a social club and aiming to grow up Christians individually to be independently serving instead of dependent upon leadership.

I also started back to college aiming for a graduate degree in Art Therapy. I felt hope that I might figure out what I would "become when I grew up." I first thought I would get a degree in English but the English Department didn't seem interested in an old 51 year woman who had homeschooled her children the last 20 years as a graduate candidate. My first class was Drawing I and I loved it. I want to go back and take so many more classes and thought I might even pursue a degree in Graphic Design, but I tearfully made the decision to not return to college. I realize it is not my time. I have a son in college and a teen daughter still at home. I need to wait, again. Still simply taking that one class gave me so much hope in knowing God will use me in ways I can never imagine.

In 2014, I also returned to teaching in the public school in a small way as a substitute teacher. I had hope that I still had what it takes to be a teacher, and mostly succeeded. It has awakened a passion. I LOVE to teach but I am not sure where God would have me yet. I made income that was suppose to offset my college expense, but I did not make enough to cover all of the costs. Yes, this is part of the reason I am not returning to college at this time. However, I am going to continue subbing and I do look forward to everyday I get to be in a classroom.

I have been completely off of the medication that was in the psychosis category: Seroquel. I have hope that I am continuing to be completely healed though I know that will not happen until I reach heaven's gates. The other three medications I take are tapered to their lowest dose. And I have continued to not need regular therapy. I have gone to a few visits this year, but it is only for reassurance, confirmation and mental maintenance.

In a highlight, I made some friends of family members. I have been communicating with my cousin, Seth and my niece, Katey. I am grateful to have them in my life. Also, I have had a very busy year finding out how to navigate difficult relationships. Sorrowfully, a few of my dearest relationships ties have waned this year--more like been targeted with a precision strike hit--to be blown apart. Though I have survived the turmoil with little lasting negative results, the relationships will never be the same.

Now It is 2015

So as the year was ending and I am writing this post on New Years Eve night,  I continued to pray to God seeking what will be the theme for 2015.  Joel says God has given him "Service" to be his key theme. I know I am starting a 40 day fast starting on Jan 5 that my family is sharing with our new church.

As you look back over the past year, I hope you see both the positives and negatives in light of God's grace. He filters everything that happens to you. Nothing is a surprise to Him. If you don't normally ask God for a theme, you might try and ask Him. It is not anything that just blows your year in any amazing way but it does give you focus, and reflect.

In fact every year in the Jewish Calendar, the Jews have a theme. 2013-2014 was the Year of the Door (year 5774). And 2014-2015 is the Year of the Whirlwind (year 5775). So it is quite in line with God's ways for Him to give you a personal theme for the year.


On the morning of January 1, when I awoke I heard within my spirit, "Rise." I wondered could that be my theme for 2015. Then later that day I read a post by Chuck Pierce and it had these two quotes in it: "He fills you and causes you to rise to a place of triumph in your life." and "He is available to fill your spirit man and cause you to rise above your enemies."

Is this the year to RISE? Excitement sweeps over me. I have never been given such a positive, freeing theme. I will continue to seek Him for confirmation, but I believe this year is the year I "rise".

Now, it is January 12, and this post is going to be published on my blog. I have embraced "rise" as my theme given to me by God and He has already begun to show me new ways to view "rise" as in allow Him to purify me and let the dross rise to the top as happens when silver is set to the fire and purified. I thank Him that He loves me enough to personally walk with me through the year to help me grow to be more like Christ. I pray for you to know Him in the same and even greater depth.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Who or What Sets You Worth

Who or what do you let set your worth, your value in life?

Worth Factors

Present your life before a large group of people and give them the ability to set your worth. Each will set it according to their own values, the way they live and determine their own value.

Is it how much money you make? How much you own? What car you have, the kind of house you live in, or the clothes you wear? Maybe even, what you collect?

Is it the family you come from? They wealth you were raised with? The expendable cash at your fingertips? The schools you attended or attend? Your lifestyle level?

Is it the degrees you have? The kind of degrees? The job you hold? The titles you can claim? Your knowledge? Your ability to speak on a topic authoritatively?

Is it the work you do? The legacy of accomplishments you can point to? The amount you produce? The lasting value of your work?

Is it the people who you consider your friends? The places you hang out? The kind of people who you are connected to? The parties you get invited to? The places you hold membership? The contacts you have?

Is it your past? What you have done in life? If you have committed crimes/sins that are deemed forgivable or justifiable? Or maybe even where someone in your family has come from, their past that creeps into the next generation?

Worth Judgers

We all judge others. We don't like to admit it, but we do. We determine a person's value and decide whether we want to know them or be friends. We make our own opinions of they way they live. We think we know their motivations or lack of them.

I get judged, just like you do. But I have to determine, just like you do, that if I am going to allow other people to set my worth. The way I live, the decisions I make, my values, my goals --Am I going to let someone speak into my life and tell me my value? Truly, I can be the hardest on myself devaluing myself because I do not measure up to my own hopes or standards of what I should be like.

So, thankfully for me, and I hope I can help you see for yourself, there is only one person I let set my worth and it is not even myself. I let God determine my value, not other people. So I get to ask, "Am I doing what you want me to do God? Have I lived up to your standards? Do I have a genuine one on one relationship with you, God? Am I spending my money and time as you desire? Are my actions and words pleasing to You?"

If God is not good with me, I look to Him to help me adjust, but if God is pleased, I am satisfied.

When this life is over, the only regret I will have is if I did not live obediently to God.

People can be so critical, fickle, fake, and hypocritical. Everyone has their own junk. To learn to ignore the voices of others while making sure that you are responding carefully to God's voice, is the key to knowing your own worth and how to be at peace with yourself.

I see pictures sometimes of young ladies and see such sadness and pain in their face. Life has lied to them or should I say,  "they believe a lie." No wonder so many people get jaded and loose hope for happiness. Everything can be so futile when your worth is set by moving standards. I want to ask, "Are you happy, yet?" but don't want to be cruel, like kicking a victim that has already been crushed by so many unfulfilled promises -- empty dreams.

""Have you tried Jesus, yet? I long to say, but know it will be ridiculed. Jesus sets the standard. His grace provides for what we lack. We can never permanently fail Him. To Him, we are priceless treasures, created for His glory and to have a long, blessed, eternal life. He is working in our life to complete us and make us more like Jesus. The more we yield to His molding the more Christlike we become.

Worth Choice

But it is up to you. Each of us. We all must determine who or what Sets Our Worth, because whether we admit it or not something/someone always does.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sink the Sub - I Was the Target Substitute Teacher

My last day to substitute teach in the local city schools I became the target of the upper elementary game "Sink the Sub." These students were quite astute at playing and I am certain many subs lay in their graveyard of the sea of humans they have hit. A fourth grade class should not be such a big deal for a 51 year old. (Think again!)

This should come with every Substitute Folder

Know the Dangers

I deliberately knew what I was getting into. I chose to take to the waters of this dangerous sea. Only a month prior I worked half-day for a new teacher--an energetic, hardworking, determined twenty year old that was facing the turbulent waters of challenging students who themselves had been through their own individual wars in life. The first time I saw her I gave her a big hug; I wanted to be an encourager to her; she had enough behavior issues in her class of 24 that could make tsunami waves. She had to learn how to sail in rough waters and to remain the captain of her crew. And I was proud for her sticking in and refusing to be tossed overboard.

So when I received a text from her to take on a full-day, I agree knowing what I was getting into. Being a certified teacher myself, I had the skills to tackle any lesson plans I would be given and after teaching my own children K-12 grade though homeschool I had a wide range of subject matter knowledge. Also, I am compassionate. I love people, including children. I want them to be the best they can be, to succeed in life and to learn all they can to be the unique person they were created to be. And oddly, I really do LOVE to teach.

I deliberately came prepared with an art project and purchased the supplies of black paper, paint trays and q-tips to use with acrylic paint that I owned. I wanted to let the class know that we had a fun activity reward if we could successful get through the days work.

Have a Zillion Back Up Plans

All was basically smooth waters until intervention rotation began. Some of my students left and in walked a handful of new students who were sorted by reading level. The students entering my class gave me no problems. However, for a one hour period, I was to lead these students through a two page reading assignment on a copied handout that had four questions at the end. We finished in thirty minutes. It is great to get work accomplished, but it can bring the sharks circling if the sub's lesson plans do not include extra work. I had none.

The complication of having students that are at a specific reading level is that as a substitute teacher I have no idea what the students can and can't do. I don't know how to gear a thirty minute "out of the hat" reading plan for them or coming up with a reading lesson without a reading book. Sure, now that I am out of the shark tank, I can know think of hundreds of ways we could have tackled that two page handout creatively, but that is where I began to gasp for air. I was stumped, and the students smelt the tinge of red blood rise to the surface. That is all it took for their hunger to play "Sink the Sub" to unleash.

I stalled them through the thirty minutes and successfully made it through math intervention with a mixed group of students from all of the fourth grade classes. We tackled long division and I had enough work to keep them plugging along. But by the time my original class returned, I was still shaken and word must have gone out because the jabs and volleys of toying with the teacher were in full force. By the time I had the class lined up for lunch I was hold back tears and filled with doubts of my capability to ever had thought I could take on this challenge. I had lost emotional control of the class.

Bullying Need to Include How Students Treat Teachers

Recognize The Kind of Leadership

Returning to my class, I passed the principals office and through tears asked if I could speak to her. Unfortunately, she was a stern, slab of rock. Emotionless and undaunted by my tears, she said she would come to my class after lunch. Without one word of kindness, compassion or encouragement, she "off with my head" told me that if I couldn't handle the class she would sit in it the rest of the afternoon. Rattled I walked down the hall to my classroom, opened the door and intentionally made sure it locked behind me. Fragile, I pulled my lunch from the frig and headed to the teacher's desk to cry between bites of food. The twenty minutes felt more like two. I pulled myself up as composed as I could muster and headed to the cafeteria to pick up my class.

Thankfully, as I led them out I ran into the dynamic, assistant principal. He knows each and every student personally because he is driven by a desire to see each child succeed. I shared with him that I was having a rough day and he walked with me back to the class. Like a pro, he came to my rescue in a way that elevated my stature in front of the class. He honored me before the students. Next, he spoke to the children and asked them to self-access if they had acted appropriately today. He told the students who felt they had to stand by their desk. Amazingly, about half of the class stood, and the others properly knew they had not and honestly judged themselves. As he was carefully instructing them on behavior, the stonewall principal arrived.

She lectured the class, and indirectly me, on the reputation of the school and how she did not want me --whom she called a visitor that traveled around through out the city schools--to go talking about what a bad class and school they had. After her "cover my ass" performance, she exited and was never seen again.

I thanked the assistant principal and proceeded to make it through the rest of the day. We had a lot of ground to cover prepping for two test the following day. So together as a class we plowed through a History and Science review sheet. Fortunately, earlier that day I realized the teacher did not leave me the answer key so I asked the lead fourth grade teacher for it. I would have certainly drowned trying to find the answers in the chapters of the books. Yet by the end of the day I was still shaken to the core. I didn't sink, I floated on a rescue raft thrown out by the assistant principal but I was walking unsteady. I tried to tidy up the room and leave an honest note to the regular teacher about the day.

We Teach and Sub Because We Love Students - Believe it or Not.

Ready Yourself to Return to the Seas

Even though my confidence is shaken in my ability to handle any class situation, I have not fully raised up the white flag.

What I learned from the experience is that long ago, about twenty years ago, I realize now that I had a "stonewall" principal. Being a newbie teacher I didn't know a gentle, compassionate supporter from a rigid, slick head, but now I do. I can see clearly why my first year teaching was so difficult. I didn't have the helping arm of an administrator that knew her students/teacher or even cared to know their situations. I had a master of a cargo ship that was aiming on taking to the high seas to rise up in the ranks as far as she could go.

You see there are two kinds of leaders. One keeps at a safe distance and barks out expectations on how to sail. The other gets into the turbulent, rocking boat and helps guide you through the icebergs or sandbars with you, for a while, until you are back in stable waters. Anybody can be the first kind of leader, but it take a unique, special soul to be the second. Thank God I was blessed with one of each to learn what God wanted to show me.

It is about time for me to check the substitute calendar for new assignments for 2015. I am grateful that I write, because I am able to use it to talk myself through difficult situations, and maybe in turn it will help one or two other daring souls who substitute teach.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Is Jesus Enough? At Christmas and throughout the Year

Good tidings to you and all of your kin! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Joy to the World and Goodwill to all men! Peace on Earth! These are cheery exclamations we read and hear at this time of the year. And when I begin to write from my heart I feel like I am more like the Prophet Jeremiah writing a Book of Lamentations. No wonder I don't have the most popular blog and a thriving following of people longing to return to what deep, dark insight I will be sharing today. Alas, I am who I am and I must be true to that, so here I share for all who can bear to endure and maybe glean some insight to their own heart and thoughts of others.

Prayer Time

In my meager attempt to return to practicing being in the presence of God, I lightly pressed my hands upon my face as I laid in bed and turned my thoughts to Him. On Christmas Eve, at 9 a.m. my house was already active with noise. So I really had to work on concentrating, focusing myself on being with God. Hearing my teen son running up and down the steps, my husband putting dishes up in the kitchen, and of course, the TV was already on in the Living Room, I pressed in and through the distractions. I know if I get up, I will never come back to prayer with Him. I will see everything that is calling my name to be done and with the noisiness of an active household, I sadly won't hear His voice.

So as my thought meandered in His presence, particularly on Christmas Eve, I reflected about family ties. Before I went to bed last light I noticed some wedding pictures of families that I know through church. Like all the wedding pictures I see, so many people surround the couple rejoicing. The reception is very festive and in a barn (as is so common in 2014). There is great laughter with dancing, and I can tell that a very fun time was had by everyone. When I clicked through theses photos, I saw a family picture that included extended family, like the size you would see at a family reunion. In a beautiful outdoor landscape, about 75 people young and old stood with the couple in their wedding attire. It was a lovely photo and one not often taken at weddings that probably should be taken regularly.

Extended Families

Looking at the large family I had the same feeling I get so many other times when I see large, family-gathering photos; I feel a sorrow knowing my children will not have a wedding like that or a family photo like that. All throughout their life, it has only been my husband and myself that are their family. We alone attend their celebrations and milestones of life. I thought about how the bride and groom have sides for sitting and know our side would be very thin. At times of weddings and holidays, our thoughts, of course, turn to extended family. I think about what could be and what is. We can live all year as a little foursome but when extended family parties begin on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we are still a foursome. (We use to be five but my oldest son has chosen to not be part of his family).

In writing that last note in the parenthesis, I wonder if you my reader thinks what on earth is wrong with us that we are only four and have even "lost" our oldest son. For this article post, it is too complicated to explain the details.

I just saw someone's holiday photo entitled "Full driveway = Full hearts" and it tugged at my heart. It is what happens when we drive around and see a house that has cars all lined up in the driveway and down the street. We know someone is having a holiday gathering of family. Truly, I am happy for them but at the same time I feel a loss in my heart. I am wrong to be honest? I rejoice with my friends who have family coming home, but at the same time I hurt and know others who heart because someone special will be missing. That feeling of someone or something missing has been a permanent part of my children's life, they know friends have been gatherings of family and they do not. We have always tried to make the best of simply being together and sharing the time we have with each other in our own unelaborated way.

But in prayer today I heard God say, "Is Jesus Enough?"

The truth is we have no presents under our tree and the stockings at this moment are empty. We went on a Christmas trip and spent our money for gifts on spending time with each other. So the question is very poignant this year, "Is Jesus Enough?"

If in our family photo we have Jesus, is that enough to make up for all the extended family that are not standing side by side smiling and supporting the young couple. "Is Jesus Enough?"

At our Christmas gathering in our home, when it is just the four of us, "Is Jesus Enough?"

For me and my sweet four, He is more than enough! Jesus being the essence of our life is what we aim for in all we do, in our choices of how we shall live.

A simplified life is what I have always admired and this Christmas we could not be more simplified. We will miss my oldest son, and it will feel odd not opening presents, but the truth is "Jesus" is all we need and want. I am grateful to say, that we get to experience a Christmas this year that is totally focused on Jesus. We didn't plan it that way but maybe God planned it for us. I won't know what it will end up being like until it is over, but I trust it will be full and satisfying.

May you have a blessed holiday together with your family and may Jesus be in the center of your Christmas.