Monday, June 28, 2010

One Thing I Abhor -- Bullying

It was getting chilly at the soccer game and I wanted my jacket. I hustled over to my car to quickly grab it out of the trunk, when I heard the quivering sound of fear. Over my shoulder I caught the image of a young boy about 8 years of age backing away slowly from another boy about his same age.

“Leave me alone. Don’t do that anymore. Go away.” The words shuddered like the ripples on a washboard, as they escaped from his mouth.

“I’m going to get you,” the other boy taunted, as he ran towards the first boy. They both disappeared around a car.

There are some things in life that once you’ve felt them yourself, there is no lag time in feeling them again. Movie clips of my being teased as a young girl began rolling in my mind. The deep sense of fear and helplessness came rushing through my veins. I was motivated and moved by these miserable memories.

I abandoned my mission to get a coat and walked briskly to the parking space where they had disappeared. I still heard the voice of the taunter pursuing his prey.

Just as I reached the space between the two cars, the boy bully – to his surprise -- backed right in to me. Startled, he looked up. I got down at his level -- eye level.

“Are you being unkind?” I said, gently but firmly.

“Yes,” he now shuttered.

“Do you like it when people are unkind to you?”

“No,” he said as his other little friends, wondering what was happening, appeared on the scene.

“I didn’t think so,” I nodded. “I don’t know who any of you are, but I suggest you leave this boy alone. Practice being kind to each other. Is that clear?”

The boy nodded rapidly, frozen in his steps. I walked back to my car, and back to the game. Ended up, I didn’t really need the jacket. I wonder if God had me there for a reason. I’ll never know if it made a difference, but I hope it stirred conviction in one boy and strength in the other.

There are a number of things in life that I abhor -- bullying is one of them. It definitely makes my “top ten list of despicable things people can do.” It brings about this intense sense of justice and compassion in me. My blood begins to stir when I hear others being put down, stepped on, preyed upon, or doused with fear.

I think about the verse from Micah 6:8 (NET), “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God.” Sometimes, it’s hard to stand up for what is right. We question whether we are even making a difference, or our own fears and insecurities get in the way. There are times in my life when people stood up for me. There are times when I wish someone had.

Promote justice, in the little and big things in life. Be faithful. Live obediently to the Lord, the lover of your soul, the lover of every soul. Defend the bullied, protect the abused, help strengthen the downtrodden and encourage the down cast. Show them the love of Christ, even a small way. Be aware of where God is placing you and what He may be calling out to do. Stand up and speak out. It may mean a world of a difference to one – or to the world. You just never know.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Heart Cries from Around the World

I’m always asking myself questions, lots of questions, in this incessant conversation that I carry on in my head. Questions about myself. Questions about my circumstances. Questions about God.

I wonder what other people around the world are thinking about, too. What are the cries of their hearts? What are they looking for? What questions do they ask in the dark of the night or the uncertainty of their days?

So, being the curious investigator that I am, (Did I ever mention that I considered the CIA or the FBI for a career?) I began to observe the statistics related to this blog.

If you are not familiar with how this can be done, I’ll briefly explain. I have the ability to see where people come in from to my site. I can’t tell who they are, just the geographic location, from anywhere in the world. In addition, I can tell how they found my blog. For instance, someone may type in to their search engine, “God prunes to bear more fruit.” Once doing that, a long list of places that have written on this topic pop up, including my post on how God's gentle Hand prunes to produce more fruit. The interested person then may choose to click on to my site, and possibly (hopefully) read what I wrote.

Over a two month period this spring, I recorded what people “googled” that brought them to my blog. There have been some interesting ones. From the Netherlands, someone entered “is having a snake a sin,” and came to my story about sin being like a snake. In Canada, someone entered “easy way to move a large stone” and came in to the story that I wrote about the large stone that was rolled out of the way of the tomb at the resurrection of Jesus.

And I don’t know what it is about birds, but there have been quite a few that have come in to my post Like Birds on a Wire, about loving each other. People entered words of curiosity like “how do birds keep balance on a wire,” “advert about a bird on a wire with the other birds and they don’t like the bird,” and (humorous to me) “why some people don’t like birds – they are God’s birds.”

Sadly, recently one person from India typed in “Lord, how does one feel when one is rejected and discarded?” I hope that they read what I wrote and that it helped. It breaks my heart. I prayed for them the instant I read it.

There are many questions that people are seeking answers for that have brought them to my blog, some of the most common being, “a bruised reed He will not break,” “renewing my strength in God,” and “God does not sleep or slumber.”

But … the most common phrase that I see people wondering about, that brings them in to my blog is some variation of this – “The will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.” I wrote about this in November of last year, and still to this day, at least one person (if not multiple people) come in through this quote. Over this two month period this Spring, I recorded 101 people from 35 of the 50 states and 34 people from all corners of the world – Trinidad, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada, Philippines, India, Brazil and Norway. Perhaps it really is a small world after all. This is amazing to me.

I am encouraged that I am not alone. There are others (all over the world) that wonder about whether the will of God will take them where they cannot be kept by His grace, and a multitude of other questions. We wonder together. We struggle together. But there is hope. We are secure in the love of God, as we seek to trust the Lord Jesus in all things. The promise of God’s security is not “from” but “in” all trials. We are not immune to difficulties. He takes us through them by being close to us, and supplying us with the grace that we need for every moment. When He asks us to do something or brings us in to a valley, He will always provide for us – in His grace – just what we need.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Fountain of LIfe My Words Can Bring

The fountain in my back yard bubbles and babbles a beautiful, peaceful sound all day long. I love the sound of flowing water. It is refreshing, calming and alive.

Over the past few days, I’ve been listening to the fountain and thinking of how the flow of the water out of the fountain is like the power of my words. The sound of the water bubbling out of the fountain is a very audible and visual reminder to me to watch my words, using them for good and not for harm.

Proverbs 10:11 says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” I desire for my mouth to bubble out words of life. Encouraging words. Joyful words. Truthful words. I want my words to be humble, not boasting and self-serving, but gentle and kind. I want words that are refreshing, nourishing, peace bringing, and life-giving to flow out of my mouth. I want to have wise and discerning words. I do not want to choose words that are stagnant and putrid, like the water in a lifeless fountain, but words that are beneficial and beautiful to life.

Unfortunately, I am not always successful at this. Sometimes, especially in difficult circumstances or with difficult people, I find it hard to come up with something nice to say, and worse yet, I sometimes say things I shouldn’t. I fail with my family and friends. I desire to be one way, and yet, fall in to criticism and self-pity; things that muck up my words.

And then I realize that just like I have to flick the switch, allowing the electricity to flow through the circuits to the fountain in my back yard, energizing the motor that runs the pump for the water to flow, I must stay connected to the perfect source of power, the Lord Jesus. As I acknowledge His life giving power in my life and spend time with Him in His Word and prayer, then my mouth (and heart) can be a fountain of life. I have a choice. I can choose life-giving words.

Dear Lord, Help me to use lovely words, words that build up and do not destroy – worthy words. As I come in contact with my family, friends and those who you bring across my path, remind me to bubble and babble words that bring life. Help me to be the fountain of refreshment, by Your power, in a world that is dry and stagnant, in need of encouragement and hope. Amen.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Slowing Down for the Summer

A major storm blew in upon the little house. The rain pelted. Tornadoes touched down. The little house was nearly destroyed, with the exception of the foundation – firm, unmovable, indestructible.

To restore was a big job; some would say (did say), insurmountable. Slowly but surely, with help and prayer, debris was hauled away, plans were made, the walls were slowly erected, the roof set on top, the electricity strung from room to room, and the plumbing piped throughout. Doors were placed to keep the unwanted out and what was inside safe. Windows were placed for light and for joy.

The final touches were yet to be made. To make it a home, it would need to be redecorated. The little house needed color, furniture, fabric, and photos. New colors. New furniture, placed in new places, for the family who lived in the house to enjoy. It would take time, a new kind of time. The big things were built, the little things now needed to be worked on. Without them, it was just a building, with them, it would be a home.

So it is for my family right now. There are times when I can unmistakably feel the hands of God upon my shoulders directing me and saying, “Do this, now, dear one. This is what I want from you.” And I know better than to ignore Him or refuse Him, for I know He loves me and my family and Has a future for us. This is clearly one of those times, and I have heard Him say, “Slow down for the summer, Andrea. Slow down.”

For the past copule of years, we have been in a major reconstruction project. Nearly all that was left after the storm of our trial that hit our family was the firm foundation of our faith in the Lord Jesus – the firm, unmovable, indestructible One who is our all in all. He helped us rebuild, wall by wall, strut by strut, wire by wire, pipe by pipe. He helped us to place doors to keep the unwanted out, and to help protect that which is indoors. He helped us hang windows, to allow more of His light in and to bring us joy when we looked out.

Now, is the time to redecorate -- time to add new color and details to our family. It’s been called, “creating a new normal,” and it is done together, over time. It is making new memories. Having new traditions. Sowing new seeds. Cherishing. Investing. Hugging. Being available. Celebrating. Sharing. Looking at each other through fresh eyes.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, part of my slowing down, will be writing less on my blog this summer. It is a bit sad for me. The blog has been a place of healing for me and a place of encouragement from the Lord and from my readers. Thank you for that. I love to write. It brings me joy. It makes my heart full to share God’s truths through daily experiences to encourage and to strengthen. Slowing down for me is hard, but I know it is what I need to do, for right now. I hope to write about once a week, but we’ll see how God leads. Maybe sometimes a bit more, maybe a bit less. Please check back once in awhile. Let me know how you are doing. Let me know if I can pray for you.

My children will wake up soon this morning, and the next time I look, they will be grown up and gone from this house. That’s natural. I understand that, but for now I want to pour into their lives and decorate our new family together. It’s the little things that make a home special, and it is the little things that make relationships special, too.

Little things, that’s what I hope to do this summer with my family. Play basketball. Watch movies. Laugh. Talk in the car from here to there and everywhere. Go to a Christian music concert. Make a campfire. Eat lots of s’mores. Cheer at a MLB baseball game. Take family bike rides. Go for a run. Snuggle. Talk like the dog. (It’s a silly thing I do that makes the kids laugh). Play games. Swim, swim, and swim some more. Take road trips. Read. Take naps. Teach one of the little girls how to sew. Play “store” with another. Hang out with my teenage daughter, doing whatever is important to her. Plant seeds and watch them grow. Be available by just being present. Play games with my oldest son. Sit in my back yard and watch my youngest son hit baseball, after baseball after baseball in to the woods. Look for God together. Thank God together. Celebrate each other. Slow down, create – redecorate -- and enjoy each other in our “new normal.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Embrace Life" (Lessons from a Seat Belt Ad)

My mom forwarded this ad on to me. I just couldn't resist sharing it with all of you. And at the end, I thought to myself, not only, "Yes, I should wear my seatbelt," but "Oh! How He loves you and me." When the tragedies of life hit and all around us shatters, the Lord is present, embracing us with His love. Wear your seatbelt, dear friends. Embrace Life. Embrace God. Allow Him to embrace you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rainy Day Hope

Rain pelted the window. The wipers marched back and forth, clearing the splattered drops only for a moment, until more covered the windshield. The clouds hung gray and heavy in the sky. My heart was slightly heavy, too. Sometimes, rainy days stir up whirlpools of emotion somewhere deep down inside of me. Rainy days are reflective days for me.

It wasn’t that I could put my finger on any one thing, it was a soup of some of my own sorrows (mixed with joys), as well as, thoughts of the sorrows of others around me. Sick family members. Abuse. Marriages under stress. Loneliness. Injustice. Widowhood. Cancer. It seems as if, as time goes on, more and more tragedy seeps in to the lives of God’s loved ones. We are not to be surprised by it; Jesus said that we would have trouble.

As I watched the wipers coarse left and right, wiping the rain away, I remembered, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17). There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). Someday, all will be well when we are with our Jesus in a perfect place.

And suddenly, hope cheered my heart, as I watched the wipers of my car and God's Word clear my view. Despite the dreariness of the weather, inside and out, I remembered that there is hope. God has not, will not ever, abandon those who love Him. He continues to orchestrate all things, even when it seems to us as if it does not make sense. The rain of our tears may pelt the glass of our hearts, but someday, He will wipe all those tears away. And the truth of that can bring us joy, even on the dark, rainy days.

For now, we are called to trust in the Lord and not lean on our own understanding. To walk alongside of each other, delighting in each other’s joys and carrying each other’s burdens. To cling to hope. To cling to Him. To remember.

Dear Lord, Thank You that You give us hearts that feel emotion. Thank You that You teach us how to love each other. Thank You that You give us the ability to be sorrowful, and yet hopeful and joyful. Thank You that, when we are alittle under the weather (or alot) we have the hope that someday You will wipe away every tear. Help us to live in the reality of Your love, at all times. Amen.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Be -YOU - tiful

Recently, I received a gift bag with a present inside of it. The gift inside was lovely, but it is what the bag said that keeps on coming back to me – “Be-YOU-tiful.”

Do you struggle with being you – the beautiful you that God created you to be? I know I sometimes do. I’m not sure where it comes from (maybe from the enemy, who wants us to be anything other than what God wants us to be), but I find that I lose myself somewhere along the road of wanting to be like someone else and not appreciating or being content with who God made me to be. I can be distracted by what others are telling me to be or I don’t take the time to see who I really am.

For some of us, there even may be messages from the past, like you are not beautiful. You are boring. You are weird. You are not gifted. You are not fast enough, creative enough, smart enough, or funny. Maybe you’ve been told you are fat, clumsy, forgetful, or worthless.

We lose ourselves, or we never really found ourselves – but God never loses us. He treasures us, and has a plan for us.

And part of that plan, is being YOU. Rabbi Zusya once said, “When I reach the next world, God will not ask me, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ He will ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya.”

That’s my thought for today. Am I being ME? Are you being YOU? Or are we busying ourselves with trying to be someone we are not – someone God never intended us to be?

God made us. We are His handiwork to bring glory to Him – and we can do it by appreciating and embracing who He made us to be. God created beauty and part of His beauty, perhaps the most beautiful of all His beauty, is you.

Be YOU. Be creative. Be strong. Be athletic. Be musical. Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be whimsical. Be serious. Be noisy. Be reflective. Be relaxed. Be adventurous. Be a home-body.

God has placed special gifts and talents in you that He plans to use in the lives around you – He is orchestrating all things at all times.

So, dear reader, BE YOU – be beautiful YOU. Stop toiling and fretting and trying to stuff yourself in to a mold that will never fit you -- just BE YOU. Ask God to help you see your value and worth today. You are beautiful, just the way God created you to be. Figure it out. Embrace it. Share it. Love it. Be comfortable with it. Be flexible with it. Be confident in it. Be willing to offer your beauty to God for His glory and for His purposes.

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