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Archive for June, 2007

(Small disclaimer: I originally wrote this last night, when we went bike riding. But then I was so tired and sore, I couldn’t stay up to post it. Maybe I am getting old!)

A few days before I left for the Women of Faith conference, my daughter learned how to ride a bike for the very first time! It was so amazing, seeing her balance there, so happy, the wind in her hair – when the day before she had asked, after watching me balance, “but, how do you stay up?”

God sometimes teaches us lessons in similar ways. At first we don’t always get it, but He keeps on at us, showing us in different ways, sometimes just giving us time to digest everything He’s been teaching us. Sometimes we gradually pick it up, a little here, a little there. Sometimes we finally just “get it,” seemingly by magic (by the guidance of the Holy Spirit).

At the Women of Faith conference this weekend, Patsy Clairmont talked about riding a bike at the age of 40, years after her last time as a child. She remembered how, and, despite a few hilarious mis-steps and embarrassment, she was able to get back on and ride a bike. She may have had a little trouble stopping (don’t we all in life sometimes?), but she was willing to get on that bike and move forward, one pedal at a time.

That story reminded me that, once we’ve learned, we all remember how to ride a bike (even if we do get a little rusty). Why else did the saying “it’s like riding a bike” come into popularity? Because it’s so true! Once you learn, you never forget.

Faith may be a little like that. Once we’ve all been saved, through believing and trusting in Jesus, we are saved (once and for all). Yet, sometimes we get a little rusty, or we have trouble either starting or stopping. At those times, we need to exercise our spiritual legs and regain balance in life. Read the Bible, pray, attend worship and church service… Before you know it, you’re up and riding again, feeling as though you never stopped.

Tonight I went bike riding with my daughter. I’m still a few years from 40, but I’ve been getting progressively unhealthier over the past few years. I need to lose some weight, and I need to exercise more. I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea for me to get on a bike for any length of time beyond showing my daughter an example in a local parking lot. But I also didn’t want to let her down, and God certainly knows I needed the exercise!

So, off we went (me praying that I would return to finish this post…).

Well, thank the Lord, I made it back! First we rode up to the church near us and raced in the parking lot (yes, my 8-year-old daughter beat me!). Then we rode down to Grandma’s house (my mom). And now, here we are, back at home safe and sound for family huggies before her brother goes to bed — with only one small spill and small scrape (not me). (Of course, that wasn’t the case the time I went roller skating with my daughter, when I was the one who ended up flat on my back! But that’s another story, and I’m still alive, so I’m thankful…)

God protects us and guides us in our endeavors (many of them more serious than a frivolous bike ride with your child, but few as enjoyable!). We may have a few spills in life and may come out with a few scrapes, but we’ll survive. In fact, we’ve been promised everlasting life. But God never said we would never get hurt; struggles are even necessary to shape us and guide us (helping us learn to ride a bike in the first place and then remember when we get rusty). Yet, we are always guided by a loving hand, and God knows JUST the right moment to let go of the back of the seat. At that moment, we’ll soar, the wind in our hair, knowing without a doubt we are free.

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It’s hard to balance your life if you don’t have the freedom to make choices. Whether your prison is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, Jesus Christ is the way to true freedom!

The theme of this year’s Women of Faith conference is Amazing Freedom. Freedom through Christ, freedom in our lives as women, freedom from our pasts, and freedom from our own fears and mental hindrances…

I attended June 22 and 23 in Cleveland, Ohio, with a friend’s church group. Over the next week or so, I will post a few entries about my time at the conference. Today I want to talk about some general tips I learned about being free.

1. The truth shall set you free, and the truth is in Christ!
Well, this isn’t something new that I learned, but it was strongly reinforced through the messages of the inspiring women and through the angelic voices of the worship singers.

2. Sometimes, as women, we allow ourselves to be imprisoned.
I don’t think anyone said this in so many words; it was more implied. Whether it be past abuse or current struggles, sometimes women assume they are the ones at fault when, in reality, it is the oppressor who is wrong (and who we need to get away from). We need to acknowledge that we are not to blame and that God loves us. Even further, you can forgive someone (setting both yourself and the other person free) without being victimized further. Conversely, sometimes we feel that we don’t deserve better, so we continue in negative patterns. This is something we need to work out within ourselves and with God, so that we can make a positive change.

3. We can change, and we can survive!
We are not doomed to be stuck in the same situation our entire lives. God has the power to change us and to change our circumstances. We need to trust in the Lord to do this. Other people have trusted in the Lord, and other people have succeeded in surpassing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Abuse, cancer, loss, any pain you can imagine under the sun. We can survive, and we can get past it. Even more, Christ understands it all! Christ has been through more pain that any of us. He has known physical pain, and He has known emotional pain. He was betrayed, as some of us probably feel we have been by someone close to us. HE KNOWS what we are going through, and He is there to comfort us. He is also there to help us make changes through the guidance and support of the Holy Spirit. We really CAN do all things through Christ, and the first step is recognizing that very fact and giving ourselves over to it.

4. Humor can help change (and save) lives.
And some of these women speaking at the conference were absolutely hysterical! Anita Renfroe, in particular, gave laugh-out-loud performances that were so true and that also tied into positive Christian messages. Patsy Clairmont and Marilyn Meberg were also extremely funny, with their stories (sometimes sad and poignant, other times so funny you couldn’t sit still). Sometimes we just need to laugh in life or we’ll go crazy. Other times we need to cry. But we can’t bottle up our emotions; doing so will slowly kill us.

5. Fellowship and worship are the best medicine out there.
There is nothing else like being in a room with 12,000 other women, with every single one of you praising the Lord at the same time! In the middle of the song How Great is Our God, I had a moment of overwhelming emotion where I realized all of these thousands of people were praising our wonderful, glorious, amazing God! How wondrous that must have been to God’s ears. I felt blessed to be a part of that, and I pray that God hears and feels that love from every single one of us every single day for the rest of our lives. There’s no doubt in my mind that, at that very moment, singing that song, we were all in the absolute single one place where God meant us to be. How often can we say that in our lives? I wish I could say it every day and every moment; unfortunately, I let life get in the way. We all need to try a little harder NOT to let life get in the way of that gloriousness, that “in the moment” with God, that intense and unconditional, never-ending, perfect LOVE.

I would love to hear about other people’s experiences at the Women of Faith conferences, or even at other conferences. Or maybe you heard a particularly moving sermon yesterday in church? Please tell us about your favorite speaker or pastor or radio personality. All of these people are there to teach us and guide us, and God has blessed them with a message to share. How wonderful and glorious! Please share what you have learned about life and about God (and especially about FREEDOM). What does it mean to YOU to be free?

There is so much more that can be said (and, believe me, I’ll probably say it!), but right now I feel led to sit quietly and pray.

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http://womenoffaith.com/

This will be the first time I’ve gone, but I’ve been told it will be an inspiring, invigorating time! As one friend (a returning attendee) put it, “when you return, you will be on fire for the Lord, and this will totally recharge your faith, your love, your hope, and your peace. You will bring that home to your family and your community and what wonders God will work to you and through you.”

She said it better than I ever could, and I am ready!!!! I am ready for a weekend of PRAISING THE LORD!

A Vacation Bible School my daughter attended tonight really got me started into the right worship mood! They sang some wonderful songs about Jesus. My favorite started out with “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and had me approaching tears and looking heavenward with joy throughout the same song!

I’ll be sure to post after the conference (maybe Sunday or Monday) about the wondrous time I know we’ll have!

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I read some blog entries recently about new research in an area called brain plasticity, and it got me thinking. Maybe God made our brains pliable so we could be molded into what He wants us to become.

“…Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’…” – Isaiah 45:9

 “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”?” – Isaiah 29:16

God is the potter, we are the clay. He made us in His image, yet we all fall short. Still, we try, and we keep learning and growing day by day.

Scientists have studied the human brain since before it could even be studied, and a common theory stated that different areas of the brain handled different tasks. Such scientific opinions may be changing.

According to Richard Nantel, of Brandon Hall Research, a leading e-learning research firm (http://www.brandon-hall.com/weblogs/richardnantel.htm), “until recently, scientists viewed the adult brain as being hard-wired into areas responsible for different tasks. Injure an area of the brain, and the ability to do something was lost. Even more depressing, every day we age, our mental abilities diminish. More and more scientists are now dismissing this tired model of the brain in favor of a theory of brain plasticity. Also known as neuroplasty, brain plasticity suggests that the brain is a much more adaptable organ than we ever thought. Injure an area of the brain, and another area can be encouraged to take over its functions.”

This possibility holds wonderful promise for those who we fear have hardened their hearts to the Lord. Maybe it’s not too late for them! Maybe their minds have not been hardened beyond the ability to change. If God made us adaptable, that means we have a chance to adapt to Him. We don’t have to stay stuck at the same spiritual plane. We can move forward, beyond where we are today into a future more amazing than we can imagine. We can perform feats we never would have expected from ourselves. All with God molding our pliable, adaptable brains… With God as the potter…

“For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” – Philippians 4:13

Scientists use brain exercises to try to change the brain. God uses spiritual exercises to try to change our hearts. God uses spiritual trials to shape us and mold us, changing us into something completely different than what we started out as. He shapes us into the people we are meant to be. He shows us we can be so much more than we are today.

New hobbies and activities — learning new skills often — can help exercise your brain. Make one of those new activities studying the Bible, and you’ll also work your heart and soul!

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Fathers are always there to protect us, but they also do so much more…

A FATHER teaches you and guides you, whether it be little league practice or a choice that alters your life.
A FATHER supports you during happy times yet also helps you through times of strife.

A FATHER hugs you when you fail and pats you on the back when you succeed.
A FATHER always seems to know just the type of loving response you need.

A FATHER lifts you on his shoulders when you’re little and lifts your spirits no matter your age.
A FATHER holds your hand when you’re all grown up and helps you find your way.

Your father provides a wonderful glimpse of God’s love.
Thank you, Dad, for more than all of the above!

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I just survived a sleepover Saturday night!

For my daughter’s eighth birthday, she wanted a sleepover party. Only a few girls from school, her cousin, what could be so difficult about that?

I had no idea eight-year-olds could stay up so late! I had attended a Girl Scout sleepover before, but the girls there fell asleep before midnight. My little posse stayed up until past 1:30 a.m.! Talking, giggling, whispering… Only one out of four girls went to sleep at a reasonable time (11 or 12).

Okay, I have to admit, it WAS cute, and I’m glad her birthday was so much fun. But it was also tiring!

I learned that, in cases like this, you need to remain flexible but still set limits and enforce rules. You want the kids to have fun, but you also don’t want them jumping on furniture or hurting each other.

I find that, when my daughter has friends over, it becomes more difficult to get her to listen to common rules (such as not to hang on the arms of the couches). I constantly seem to be telling her, in particular, to calm down or stop doing something potentially dangerous. Is that peer pressure at play? Or does she just get so excited that all thought of rules completely leaves her mind?

We were all children once. Did we do the same thing? It seems that I remember always being so good growing up, listening to my parents. Yet, my mom does have some stories that would suggest the opposite at times…

The mother/daughter relationship is a complex one. At times, you have so much fun, almost like friends. At other times, there is such conflict, butting heads at every turn.

I suspect part of it has to do with my daughter Jessica being at such an “in between age,” still wanting to do childhood activities (like be silly, jump around, and play in the dirt), yet starting to prefer more pre-teen activities (like play with her digital pet, watch movies, and giggle with her friends).

I also wonder if she is torn between being a tomboy and more feminine pursuits. I was always a tomboy, and I liked it, but society is so different (there seems to be less running around the neighborhood until all hours playing tag). That was the life! Sadly, my children may not get to experience that in a day-and-age where we watch our children every second.

Now there are more organized activities (baseball, dance, etc.), which are also fun, but what happened to the creativity of a child planning his or her own summer day with friends? Around our neighborhood growing up (which also happens to be the same neighborhood since we live up the street from my parents, but it’s very different now!), we would hold plays and make up our own games. We even started a “detective club,” and we would “pretend” any old scrap of newspaper on the street was a “clue.” We had a blast!!!!

We also learned leadership skills and working in a team, and we stretched our imaginations to their limits and beyond!

How can we achieve that in today’s “modern” society? How can our children learn these same skills (and have more fun than they can imagine doing it)? How can we guarantee that this and future generations will develop painters and writers and other creative personalities (when everyone seems so focused on technology)? Have other parents seen this type of thing happening, and how do you deal with it? Is there anything we can do? Times are changing; do we just have to change with them?

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*Partial excerpts from my book Simply Balanced intermingled with new content*

I used to think reading the New Testament was enough. After all, Jesus is the whole point; the Gospel is THE Good News. The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. The Jewish Christians of Jesus’ time knew the Scriptures inside and out. They recognized Jesus as the Messiah because He fulfilled the prophecies in the Scripture they knew so well and cherished.

But I’m not a Jewish Christian of Jesus’ time. I was raised in modern times, AFTER Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice of dying on the cross for us. His sacrifice is the point; it’s how we are saved (by trusting in Him). As “Christ”ians, why do we need to read the Old Testament when everything about Jesus is in the New Testament?

Or is it?

True, Old Testament prophecies foretell of the Messiah. Still, that reasoning for reading the Old Testament is a bit circular (read the OT to read the prophecies about Jesus in the NT). Is there a good reason to read the Old Testament for itself? Can we learning anything to help us live our lives that cannot be found in the New Testament? How does it affect our relationship with God?

Initially, one of my biggest deterrents to spiritual growth was the huge dichotomy between the “Old Testament” God and the “New Testament” God. The divide seemed so wide that I wondered how I would cross it. I wanted to reconcile these two contradictory images in my mind: a God who would destroy the world with a flood (an eye for an eye type of God) versus a God who loved us so much that He died for us (a turn the other cheek type of God). Yet, it was the same God—I knew that; I just didn’t comprehend how it could be (it made no logical sense in my human mind).

Instead of ignoring the Old Testament, however, I was led to explore it—from creation to Moses to Isaiah and all the kings in between and prophets beyond. Now, the more I read of the Old Testament, the more I realize that it helps you better understand God! He is a just God and a loving God, whose people have continually turned away from Him—not just once or twice, but so many times that it seems to never have any end in Old Testament times.

How could they keep turning away from their Lord? The answer is simple—because they could not do it on their own, and neither can we. None of us can or ever could. An eye for an eye simply does not work. God knows that—he always did, but He had to show us by example to get us to believe it as well.

Rather than demonstrating anger and wrath, the lessons learned by the people in the Old Testament are God’s loving way of showing us that we cannot do it on our own, by works alone. “Live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Trying to live perfectly means failure. Rather than seeking perfection, we need to seek a deeper relationship with God and move toward becoming more like Jesus (and any good works are a by-product of that loving relationship). But perfection is a goal we will never achieve until we are with Jesus again.

Failing to reach perfection should not come as a great surprise because we are imperfect people. We are sinners, and, without Jesus, we would all still be lost. Without the failings of God’s people in the Old Testament, the righteous of that day and today (seeing by example through reading God’s Word) could never truly recognize our desperate need for Jesus’ salvation. We might still be thinking we could somehow manage to do it all on our own, following God’s laws perfectly.

God showed us we can’t do it. He showed us through years and years of His people doing evil and worshipping idols. He loved us so much that He showed us our need for Jesus—making our relationship with God so much more special. I grow closer to Jesus through reading the Old Testament, which helps me see how much God loves us all and makes me love Him all the more. I want to PRAISE THE LORD all day long and shout it from the rooftops, sit quietly at night or early in the morning and talk with Him, show others the joy He gives me…

That’s the kind of love God wants us to find. Not a love based on right and wrong, out of a sense of obligation. A love that makes you want to do right simply because you love God and you love those around you. A love that doesn’t suddenly make you perfect but that leads you to strive to be more like Jesus. A love that changes you from the inside out and brings tears to your eyes. A love that only God can provide.

Without the Old Testament, we could not truly and fully comprehend that love.

Do you obey God out of obligation or love? Can you point to ways the Old Testament glorifies Jesus? Can you really have one without the other (NT without OT)? Are there other ways that the Old Testament and New Testament complement one another (rather than contradict one another)? What are your favorite Bible verses that connect the Old Testament and New Testament in some way? (I love the book of Hebrews!)

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