About Love

I Corinthians 1313

When I was a kid, life was a lot different. I can remember when Dad brought home our first microwave, our first VCR, and our first Video Game Console. I remember the Christmas as a young married woman when I received my first CD player. I was so excited! I didn’t know it at the time, but just like life had changed so drastically with the development of machines in the late 1800s, so would life change again in the late 1900s with the development of the computer.

One of those changes — a seemingly very minor one — is that instead of buying the whole album of our favorite artist to get the song we love, we can now just buy that one song. This option means we don’t have to buy the songs we don’t like. But I wonder if it doesn’t also mean that we miss a few we would really like?

Sometimes I think we approach love a little like that. We want to just experience the easy, good parts of love. Let me explain–

If we are a parent, the easy, fun parts are the hugs & kisses, the snuggling up at night and the “I love yous” and the proud moments when you get to say “I’m that kid’s parent!”

If we are a spouse, some of the good parts are when we are in complete harmony in purpose, holding hands and talking, looking across a room and knowing exactly what the other person is thinking.

If we are a son or a daughter, the good parts are the cool ways your parents take care of you even as an adult, or the friendship that has grown deeper with your older parents.

If we are a friend, the easy part is the connection we feel, the support we know we have, no matter what befalls us.

These are some of the best things about love. The joy that comes from interpersonal relationships.

But I wonder if, with the advent of all of this technology, we have become a little unrealistic in our expectations of love, thinking we can just pick the good times. Trying to hang on to “perfect”– just getting the pleasant experiences and bypassing the unpleasant ones.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that sometimes there are far more unpleasant ones than pleasant ones. We are all sinful human beings and life is hard–

As parents, we need to discipline and provide consequences for sinful behavior. We need to have hard conversations. We need to endure a few “I hate you!”s and quite a few seemingly hopeless moments that just aren’t any fun at all and certainly not easy. But that is love.

As spouses, we don’t always jive, we disagree, and we have periods of crazy, busy times where we hardly see each other. We argue, we fight, we lay in bed not talking. But this is just the hard part of love.

As adult children, we see our parents growing weaker, they need us to do things for them that they used to be able to do for themselves, we take them to dr appts, or do their finances, or change their diaper. But we remember how hard it must have been to raise us, and we do it because we genuinely love them with all our heart.

As friends, we disagree– sometimes on major things, our kids may fight or not get along, or we may move far away from each other, but if true love abounds, the friendship remains, because that is what true love does.

I just wonder if we have become so used to pulling only the good things and avoiding the bad things, that we have not experienced love in its fullest, most satisfying way. For when we walk away (physically or emotionally) from a tough situation, we are in essence saying that we don’t want the hard stuff.

Now, please don’t take this to the extreme. There are a few very legitimate reasons to walk away from certain relationships, at least for a time. But this is not the norm. Most relationships are broken because they just weren’t easy or fun anymore.

Many of those who walk away go on to start a new relationship that sours faster than the first one.

But true love accepts the bad stuff along with the good stuff. Rejection isn’t even an option. Divorce or abandonment aren’t even a passing thought in our brain. True love means commitment and work but, oh, the rewards are tremendous.

I have no idea if you are struggling in a relationship today. Many of us are. Don’t give in to the thoughts that tell you to quit and move on. Keep loving. Keep doing what’s right. Do what you can do and then pray. Hard. We can’t change the other person, but we can surely do all that we possibly can to salvage the troubling relationships in our lives.

 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

 

A Call to Prayer for Our Men

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{my apologies that my subscribers are receiving this post twice. I actually had to restore my site and re-post this.}

My daughter and I met some friends for lunch on Friday. The hour and a half drive there took us through a section of road that has adult stores dotting the roadside for several miles. Usually these stores have cars in front of them that are very obviously parked so that no one can see their license plates. A sure sign of embarrassment and shame.

As we drove back home on Friday, I happened to see a man get out of his work truck in front of one of these stores. He went around the side of his truck to fix or rearrange something. I stared at him as we went by. I wanted to see just what kind of men frequent such places.

And guess what? He looked like an ordinary guy that we’d hire to fix our car or stand and talk to at a sports game. He certainly didn’t look like an evil monster.

Now, truthfully, I didn’t expect him to look like a monster. So what’s my point? I believe that we women have done a great disservice to our men if we are not praying for their sexual purity.

It makes us so uncomfortable to even talk about this. Even now, some of you will be appalled that I would be writing about such a thing. But, honestly– unless you are living in blind ignorance–you must realize that pornography has become a problem of epidemic proportions in the American family. Even in Christian families. So many face the consequences of this deadly, secret sin in one way or another.

I’m not going to speak to the men since I obviously can’t understand how that temptation works for them. However, I am going to challenge the women reading this– wives, mothers, aunts, grandmothers– to pray for the men in their lives regarding sexual purity. Pray for your husbands, sons, nephews, grandsons. Ask the Lord to protect them from this particular temptation.

We can’t just turn our heads and pretend this problem doesn’t exist. Because that doesn’t keep it from existing.

Will you join me in praying for the sexual purity of our husbands and sons? Our nephews and grandsons? Our brothers and brothers-in-law? And even our pastors and spiritual leaders? God will use our prayers to help them to resist the temptation of this secret sin that destroys so many marriages and families. We must never underestimate the power of prayer!

Obviously, this is not my typical kind of post. But when I saw that normal-looking man walk into that store, my heart broke for him and his family because I know that they have a serious problem that will only grow worse unless he seeks help. And it reminded me to pray hard for the men in my life in this particular area. I thought I would share this with you, in case you, too, would like to ask God to strengthen and protect the men in your life.

 

Helping your kids through a tough time

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How well I remember that moment. I was peaking around the door to check on my oldest daughter. She was only two or three and was in Sunday School for the first time. As I watched, I saw a couple of little girls treat her unkindly. I saw the hurt look on her face and I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart.

That was the moment I realized that it hurts far worse to watch my kids experience hurt than for me to experience it personally.

Watching all that was going on from that door was rather torturous. But I knew to step in and try to fix the situation would only make it worse. And so I stood helplessly by, trying to comfort myself with the thought that I went through the same kind of snubs and survived.

Little did I know at that time just how often my kids would experience pain and hurt throughout their lives– no matter how much their father and I tried to protect them. Since that time I’ve grown older and, hopefully, wiser. And I’ve learned that there are some things we can do help our kids as they travel through those painful times.

But before we can help them, we need to understand a few things ourselves. First, we need to understand that we can’t– nor should– fix every little problem that comes up in our kids’ lives. As my oldest was going through terrible times with some friends in middle school it was all I could do to not to get involved, but, thankfully, I chose to heed my mother’s advice: do not get involved. I am so glad that I did now, although at that time it felt like I must do something.

I think we also need to understand that shielding our kids from hurt is actually hurting them in the long run. Let’s say that we were actually able to keep them from experiencing pain and hurt for the first eighteen years–can you imagine what would happen when they left our shelter and struck out on their own? What a cold and harsh introduction to a cold and harsh world. And not only that, but in our attempts to protect and shelter our kids from pain, they start believing that they are the center of the world. They become self-centered and self-absorbed and eventually end up hurting themselves (and us) in the long run.

And so we cannot think it is our duty to shield our kids from pain. It isn’t.

But just because we can’t keep them from feeling hurt, doesn’t mean we can’t help. There are some things we can do to help our kids–

1. Remind your child that they are not alone. Let them know that you love them unconditionally and keep them secure in that love. No matter what’s going on — whether bad grades, a broken heart, or not making the team– be by their side and encourage them. But, just as importantly, remind them of God’s love. Remind them that they will never be alone if they turn to God in their trials.

2. Talk about the Sovereignty of God in their life. Sovereignty is a big word, but basically we need to discuss with our kids how nothing happens outside of God’s Will and how whatever it is they are facing is something God is using to turn their hearts toward Him or to grow them spiritually. Nothing happens without a reason. Encourage them to have a humble and teachable spirit as they face trials and troubles and then follow those words up by having a humble and teachable spirit yourself when you face your own personal trials.

3. Think outside the box. So often we tend to throw our hands up in the air and say, “Oh, well, we just need to walk through this” and we put our heads down and trudge on. But sometimes– not always, of course– we can think outside the box and come up with a solution. Or we come up with a way to creatively deal with a situation. Talking and discussing in this way will help them with problem-solving later on. We never want to teach them to just “accept their fate” without first exploring all of the options. We never want to encourage them to dwell in a place of self-pity. But it is very important that we never have these discussions without prayer. Be in prayer with them and for them. God has answered and provided in many seemingly impossible situations in our family’s life– building much faith in the process.

4. And, finally, always help them to keep a proper perspective. When one of my kids and I were discussing something difficult that they were going through recently, it was so helpful to remember that this particular trial really wasn’t that much of a trial, in light of what so many others go through. It really does help to remember that it could be so much worse. At the very least, gently and lovingly turn their thoughts to how much gratitude they should have simply because they have a warm home, food to eat, and someone who loves them to take care of them.

As you have these discussions with your kids, you will see them start handling their own trials in this way. But, of course, most of our discussions with our kids will be utterly useless if we don’t respond to our own trials well. How true the old saying is: Much more is caught than taught. And so we need to be ever mindful of responding and reacting to our own trials by applying these same four principles.

Our kids are going to experience pain. It is the very nature of life. Instead of jumping in to shield and protect them, let’s do all we can to prepare them for the future, so that they will be ready to go out into the world as capable and unselfish adults who want to live for God’s glory.

 

 

Eight Ways to Make This the Best Christmas Ever

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Thanksgiving is over. Guess what that means?

It means that Christmas season has officially begun for even the most reluctant merrymakers! Personally, I’ve been playing Christmas music for awhile now. I think it is terribly sad to relegate all that great music to four or five short weeks out of the whole year.

This year we only have four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get everything done that needs to be done. If you are like me, visions of Christmas cards and cookies and candy dance in your head. The tree is up but some decorations are still sitting in boxes waiting for their time to shine. A few gifts are already hidden and a Christmas list organizing all of the gifts you need to buy is partially put together. There may be school and church programs and office parties and family get-togethers. Amidst all of that activity is the normal stuff–basketball games, cleaning, laundry, paying bills. And it’s all squished into these four short weeks.

So how do we keep our sanity? And how do we build stronger relationships (instead of tear them down) in this stressful season? And how do we keep our eyes focused on the real meaning of Christmas? I have a few suggestions–

1. Look at your list and eliminate a few things, if necessary. This seems so simple but for some of us we feel terribly guilty for even contemplating it. I know that the first year I didn’t have a big Christmas cookie baking day, I was almost wracked with guilt. But I eventually realized that Christmas could be enjoyed whether I baked or not. I still bake a few of our very favorite kinds, but I spread it out a little and don’t relegate an entire day. I can see cookie-baking day being re-instated as my kids grow up and want to start new traditions. Which leads me to number two–

2. Be flexible. While it is quite special and beneficial to have some traditions, we can’t be too over the top on carrying out every last tradition that we become annoying and frustrating to be around during the holidays. Maybe we need to go to a different tree farm–or no tree farm at all. Maybe our family get-together can’t be on Christmas Eve anymore. Life keeps changing and that means our holiday seasons keep changing, too. We can’t get too wrapped up in traditions that we grow sulky and depressed when they discontinue or change. You may not find this particular suggestion quite as necessary until you have older kids.

3. Spend a few minutes enjoying the tree lights. I know this sounds simple. But, seriously, try it. Take the occasional evening — with your spouse or your kids or by yourself– turn all of the lights off and just spend a few minutes relaxing in the quietness of the twinkling lights. It’s a great place for conversation, contemplating, and praying. Make sure the TV is off.

4. Do something really nice for someone. This can be accomplished in a myriad of ways and many of us do this already, I know. But maybe this year we can step it up a bit. We can have the kids make cards for shut-ins or perhaps even visit someone from our church that is lonely. We can visit a local soup kitchen or mission and help however we can. We can come up with really fun and creative random acts of kindness. The key here is to focus on others. It is not about stuffing money into the salvation army box or writing a check to a needy family– these are great things, don’t get me wrong– but this is about giving some of our precious time to someone else who can really use it. It’s about getting out of our little, comfortable worlds and stretching ourselves. If you do this, I can promise that you will not be sorry.

5. Develop a tradition or two just for your family. I am sure many of you already have these in place. But if you are looking for ideas, here are a few– have a gingerbread house building night (we buy kits cheap after the holidays), read an Advent story each night in December (check here for one of our favorites!), have a camp-out by the Christmas tree, bake together, have an ornament-making day, watch a classic Christmas movie (most Hallmark movies do not count here– I am thinking It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, The House Without a Christmas Tree–if you haven’t seen these you are really missing out!). The key to family traditions is that you don’t feel the need to do all of these, but you develop a few that are fun for your whole family.

6. Don’t stop your normal habits of quiet time, exercise, and eating right. Oh, this one is so key. We are not our best selves when we aren’t walking with the Lord. If we aren’t in His Word we aren’t being convicted and challenged to keep growing. When we aren’t eating right and exercising, we do not feel well and don’t have as much energy. But the catch-22 to is that it is just so hard to fit these things in during this busy season. And so we may need to change things up a bit– maybe we need to pray before we get out of bed in the morning or can only get in a few verses instead of a whole passage during this time. Perhaps we can only exercise three times a week or 20 minutes at a time. It’s still better than nothing. And we need to give ourselves a little grace to enjoy some holiday fare without becoming holidays “pigs”. There is a happy medium. Sometimes it is hard to find it.

7. Keep the TV to a minimum and read some old-fashioned Christmas stories. TV can consume hours of our time very quickly if we are not careful. Hours much better spent doing some other things. This is always a challenge for me during this season because there are so many Christmas movies that I enjoy. But there are so many wonderful Christmas stories to read. Don’t miss them! Joe Wheeler’s Christmas in My Heart series  (I think he has like 17 books of compiled Christmas stories), The Bird’s Christmas Carol, Finding Noel, and The Unfinished Gift are just a few of my favorites. Truly, you will not be sorry to turn that box off and pick up one of these wonderful stories. The Bird’s Christmas Carol and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol our two of our favorite read-alouds from the past.

8. And, most importantly, let’s keep the focus on the true reason of Christmas. Let’s minimize the Santa movies–notice that I’m not saying don’t watch them, as that is something for each of us to determine on our own. But let’s keep the focus off of Santa and his magical, “god-like” qualities and keep the focus on what we are really celebrating if we are believers. Let’s read the account of His birth in the Gospels and spend some of our time around the tree discussing this with our family. Let’s talk about why He came and the wonder and amazement of it all. If we don’t talk about it, our kids will not know. They won’t understand the depth of love we have for Jesus Christ. Christmas is a great time to focus on the gospel. For it is at this time that we celebrate God’s great plan of salvation, which began in a stable in a small town in Bethlehem. O, how easy it is to lose focus if we aren’t careful. It is also a wonderful time to share our faith. People tend to be kinder and more open at this time of the year. Let’s not be so embarrassed and ashamed to talk about our Lord with others but instead be bold and courageous!
I hope that you find these tips encouraging and inspiring! I hope that it gets you thinking about how to have the best holiday season with your family. Do you have some other suggestions? I would love to hear your ideas, so be sure to comment below! Now let’s all go have a wonderful holiday season! Starting. Right. Now!

 

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The Right Glue

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Yesterday was a lazy day around here. No plans. Nothing that absolutely had to be done. I love days like that. Around 3pm, my youngest daughter decided she was going to build a gingerbread house. We talked a bit about it and the decision was made that if she would wait a few hours, all of us (at least all of us who were around that night) would build one with her later on that evening. We hadn’t had an annual gingerbread-house making day for a few years and it seemed like it would be a fun activity for a winter evening.

We have this habit of buying gingerbread-house kits after the season is over for almost nothing and then stocking them up for the next year.  Of course, if you go a couple of years without an annual gingerbread-house making day, we are left with with a problem–the supplies get very old. This leads to some pretty serious consequences. As you will see.

Later on that evening, we all sat down at the table to get started. As I gently pulled my pre-made pieces from the box, I was disappointed to see that one of my gables has broken and the other one was in pieces. It was pretty clear that one end of my house would have a nice, large air vent.

As we started pulling out the packets of pre-made icing, we were quickly disappointed. Some were as hard as a rock, others were stiff and hard to work with. We put the stiff ones in warm water with high hopes. As we continued some of us had better luck than others with our creations. Personally I found the whole thing very frustrating. The stiff, uncooperative icing was making it so much work to add candy to the house that photo 1revit wasn’t even all that fun. And, so, when the roof slid off just as I had finished decorating it, I decided to just go play with my new “grand-puppy.” She was getting into a little trouble, anyway, and needed someone to watch her.

I played with her for a few minutes and then wandered back to my house to try one more time. I was less than enthusiastic this time around, but seeing the rest of my family persevering at their houses made me feel a little guilty (except for my son-in-law who had gladly taken up puppy duty and was feeling about the same as me about decorating these houses!)

photo 2I tried to put the roof back on and let it rest for a moment. I then carefully put a little frosting on a piece of candy cane and stuck it to the side of the house. The candy cane fell off. I tried again and this time the whole house fell completely apart! As it lay there in pieces, I decided that now was a great time to quit and left the table.

Quitting was an option with a gingerbread house. Who really cares, anyway? But quitting is not an option with our own homes. And sometimes we do feel like quitting, don’t we?

In my gingerbread house, the glue that held my house together was of very inferior quality. And so I was running into some pretty serious problems.

The same can be said of our own lives and homes. The glue with which we hold our lives together has to be the right stuff.

If we build our homes with unbiblical presuppositions and expectations, we will start to see certain areas crumble. If we use the glue of guilt, pride, or unrelenting stubbornness, our house will become weak. If we allow worldly attitudes and philosophies to give us the recipe for our glue, our homes will most likely fall apart. It will, at best, be a thrown-together shack with the potential to fall in on itself at any moment.

The glue to keeping our homes together is clear in scripture. It consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The glue that works has a good portion of humility (Colossians 3:2) and biblical love (I Corinthians 13). I use the adjective “biblical” because the world’s definition of love is very different than God’s.

The other day I was feeling really frustrated about something that wasn’t getting done around the house. I told my husband my frustration and let’s just say that my words were not filled with kindness and humility. A few minutes later, I sat down to read my daily portion of God’s Word. In my read-through of the Bible that day, I “just happened” to be in I Corinthians 13. I was quite aware of the irony of it all. When my husband came back in the house a few minutes later, I humbly apologized.

You see, God uses His Word to act as a mirror for us. It clearly shows us our weaknesses. But it doesn’t end there. It also gives instruction and help. We aren’t stuck in the mire of our pride and anger. We can get beyond our penchant for bad language or sulkiness. We can change. Our marriages can change. Our families can change.

There is a lot of hopelessness that abounds today, with little talk of victory in Christ. But what kind of God do we serve, anyway? If He can part the seas, can’t He work in our own hearts? If He can create the world, can’t He fix a marriage? Yes, we will always fight sin. Yes, we will always be tempted. But if we start using the right kind of glue, by the help of the Holy Spirit, things can get so much better.

Life is just tough, isn’t it? Relationships are sticky, tenuous things. So many families are dysfunctional and so broken. And we retreat into our shells and build walls. But perhaps it is time to start digging into God’s Word for some answers.

If you are ready to begin to discover God’s Word for yourself, I invite you to join me in the Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge coming up in 2015. You can click here for more information. But you don’t have to join me to get into the Word. Just do it. Just go get started. If you are humble and ready to obey, you will find it life-changing.

 

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A Different World

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When I was a child, I can remember my grandmother’s reaction to the TV shows that my grandfather used to watch. She would say with gusto (and in good, old Pennsylvania Dutch fashion), “Such dumb stuff!”

I used to giggle as I watched my grandparents. My grandma would fuss and my grandpa would fuss right back and keep watching anyway.

Interestingly enough, the shows she was upset about then seem utterly mild and innocuous now.

Isn’t it so fascinating how we so easily slide down the moral slope? The things we allow in our homes now make the shows of the 70s look almost moral (even though so many of them weren’t) because we have become so hardened to what is right and wrong. We have become so inoculated to the evil in this culture.

And, honestly, the TV is probably one of the main reasons. When we allow ourselves to watch a show filled with the things that God hates, they become normalized.

I remember a young man arrogantly telling my daughter that she cannot possibly understand the real world, if she doesn’t watch popular shows and movies. After all, they are just showing the real world.

Aaahh. How I beg to differ.

First, you can know the real world quite well by just living in it. You don’t need a screen to tell you about it.

And, second, tv and movies do not generally show the real world anyway. They show an unrealistic world full of violence at will, sex anytime you want it, normalized gay lifestyles, and scoffing of Christians.

Oh, wait.

That is real.

What TV and movies started showing us in the 80s and 90s has become reality. Do you think that is an accident?

What tends to not be real on most of the stuff coming out of Hollywood is the serious lack of consequences of sin. They are almost always missing. There are no damaged emotions, jail time, or insurance claims. There are no consequences to drug use, selfishness, or shooting someone because they were in your way. But this is not the real world.

So let’s take it back to us. I have a question for you– Are you more or less likely to watch the same shows as you did five years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago?

I mentioned this in a post a few years ago. You can find it here. If we are growing as a Christian, then our spirits should be more offended as we watch things that are displeasing to our Savior as time goes on, not less.

It reminds me of the time we had on a movie in our home that had been very popular in the 80s. We tend to think that if it is old, it is okay. We found out as we watched that movie that this is not the case. A few minutes into it, we were so inundated by bad language and an overabundance of taking our dear Lord’s name in vain, that my husband turned it off. Why hadn’t we remembered that when we watched it the first time? Or the second time?

I can answer that.

It’s because as we have grown closer to the Lord, He is filling us with hatred for the things He hates and love for the things He loves. And, oh, the blessing that comes from that! You may think we are missing out on all the fun, but, honestly, we don’t miss it because our definition of fun has changed.

If you just don’t care or believe that God doesn’t care about your entertainment choices then I challenge you to get in the Word, find out who God is, commit to obey Him and then watch Him change you from the inside out. Watch your love for filthy entertainment grow to an occasional lapse in judgment. It’s an amazing thing. Hebrews 4:12 is TRUE!

If you have no desire to be changed or think you are going to miss out on too much fun and refuse to even think about this, then you’d better do some soul-searching.

There is no denying that we are in a different world now than we were even ten years ago. Right and wrong has become relative and fuzzy. Anything goes. There is no respite from the evil and sinful things that come into our homes via a screen unless we turn off the TV.

So I challenge you to turn it off. Or at the very least, pay more attention to what you and your family are watching. Don’t cave to the god of this age. Don’t let him steal your children. Stand for the truth. And, in so doing, be a wonderfully, shining light to the lost around you!

 

iOS Frustrations

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Well, the iPhone saga continues on at this house. If you recall, it was only about a month ago that I had shattered my iPhone and blogged about the lessons I learned from that experience (you can find that post here). When I wrote that, my phone had not been fixed. I’d like to take just a moment to tell you the rest of that story, so you can fully appreciate the rest of this post.

After trying to replace the broken screen, I finally just decided to call the insurance I apparently had on the phone (but do not remember signing up for). When I called, the kind lady assured me that she would be able to help me and went on to explain that since they were no longer making the iPhone 5, I would be sent a 5s. A day later, my phone showed up. I moved the Sim card, restored my latest backup, and was up and running in literally no time at all. It was so easy.

Fast forward a few weeks, when my husband dropped his phone. But instead of the screen shattering, something happened with his sound. He could no longer hear any calls through his ear piece and had to take all his calls via the speaker phone. Once again, I was on the phone with the insurance company.

But this time it would not be so easy.

When I called, I was informed by the not-so-nice lady who seemed to have no idea what she was doing that I would need to fax an affidavit and proof of my I.D. to them before they could process this claim. They could not approve the claim before I did this. When I asked for her supervisor and explained that I had just made a claim on another phone without doing this, she told me this was standard and there were no exceptions. Hmmm. Okay. Slightly annoyed, I did as I was told. When the approval finally came through it was for an iPhone 5. No problem there. I found it curious, given what the agent had told me the month before, but not a problem.

A couple of days later, the phone arrived. When I went to get started exchanging the phones last night, the tiny screen of the new iPhone informed me that no backups could be restored until the operating system was updated. Upon investigating further, I realized that the phone they had sent me only had iOS 6. At that point, I knew we were not looking at some easy fix. This was going to take some time. I was starting to feel some pressure. It was already pretty late at night and Eric could not be without a phone the next day. Ok, he could but it would be extremely inconvenient. I found myself wondering why mine was the easy and upgraded one. He needs his phone so much more than I need mine. Anyway.

I updated the iOS as requested only to find out that now it couldn’t restore the backup because the new phone was now iOS 8 and his backup was in iOS 7. So. Much. Frustration. So now I had to update his iPhone. If you have an iPhone, you are aware that these updates take some time. We were now at around 11:15. I left his to update and went to bed. This morning at 6:15, it looked like it had not updated overnight. And the panic hit once again. Thankfully, it had updated (must have just been a glitch on the screen). To update the new phone, I had had to set it up as a new phone. And so now I had to go back and erase and reset the new phone so I could restore the backup.

I was finally able to get the new phone in Eric’s hands at about 7:30.

What a process. All because I did not start with the right iOS system.

What I am going to say now most people do not want to hear but the bottom line is this: If we start with right operating system, life is generally simpler. 

And, in life, the right operating system is found in the Bible. If we follow the standards set up for us there, we have a better life. I have even seen non-Christians live by the standards set up there and have a really good life because they are living a good, moral life by staying faithful to their spouse, being honest, loving their children and teaching them to obey and respect authority, being a good steward of their resources, and being a good worker. These things alone will keep us from experiencing an awful lot of consequences.

But when we start with the wrong operating system (known by the name ME), we run in to some serious problems. When we are dominated by our own selfish desires, pride, and lusts, we will probably not have such an easy life but instead will be forced to deal with some costly consequences.

Sure, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. But we have to stop pretending that we can–

–Eat all we want and not get fat.

–Let our kids disobey and be disrespectful and yet believe they will somehow follow the Lord when they get older.

–Be selfish and unloving and still have a good marriage.

–Buy what we want and not go into debt.

Life has consequences. And much of the heartache in this world is due to this rule of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). The really sad thing is that most times we are not the only ones who reap what we sow. The tragedies dealt by bad decisions are visited upon our children, our spouses, and our parents. Our choices can ruin lives.

My phone was so easy because I had started with the correct iOS. On the other hand, Eric’s phone was difficult and so frustrating because it did not have the correct iOS.

Let me encourage you to start with the right operating system today. This doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives (which you will understand immediately if you know me at all!), but it does mean that we will make a very purposeful decision to stop being guided by our own desires and wants and, instead, turn to God’s Word for directions on how to live. You will not only be pleasing Him by this choice, but avoid a lot of unnecessary heartache and sadness in your life.

 

If you appreciated this post, would you please take a moment to share it? Thank you.

 

 

A Lesson in Love From an Unlikely Source

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I love both my dogs. Truly, I do. But I have to admit that one is so much easier to love than the other one. (First, a disclaimer– if you don’t like dogs, you may not “get” this post. I hope you will keep reading, anyway.)

We have one dog named Belle. She is small and white and a bit cat-like. She will come if she feels like it. She will obey if she feels like it. She will stare at you with these eyes that seem to say, “see if you can make me.”  Now, overall, she is a great dog. She really is. And most times she does listen. And when she feels like it, she is the most cuddly dog you can imagine. But so much of the love is on her terms.

On the other hand, our Chocolate Lab, Macy, is almost always willing and ready to obey, to come when called, and to snuggle. She is happy and easy-going and just an easy dog to have around. She follows me everywhere and is almost depressed when I am not home for a few days. She loves me so much that I can’t help but love her back. The dog hair that seems to congregate in the corners of my house and other occasional annoyances that come with having a dog inside the house are more bearable because she is just so lovable.

The bottom line is that Macy is just easier to love than Belle.

As I was thinking about this the other day, I started wondering: Am I lovable? Do I love the people in my life so much that they can’t help but love me back?

I think sometimes we expect people (especially our spouses) to love us unconditionally, without wavering. And so they should. But perhaps we could make it so much easier for them to do so?

Should we really expect passionate and undying love from someone if we treat them like they are our servant? Or grow angry and irritated at the slightest offense? Can we really expect unconditional love if we are unkind, arrogant, and defensive? If we never, ever apologize or forgive?

Oh, it is possible to love difficult people by the grace of God and His love working through us, but we do it out of a sense of duty. It certainly isn’t because it is fulfilling or rewarding in any way. It certainly isn’t the way God designed love between two people to be.

Instead we so often fall into the habit of tolerating one another.

I have read several books on marriage that suggest that if you start serving your mate and treating them the way you would want to be treated it would go a long way in making your marriage work. I knew that this must be true but when I started thinking about my two very different dogs, understanding came in a whole different way.

It is just hard not to love someone (or a dog) who treats you like you are the greatest thing in existence. It is a rare person who doesn’t respond to kindness and loving actions shown towards them. And it is so much easier to put up with the annoyances and small irritations if we feel deeply loved by someone. Tolerance falls away and deep, abiding love takes its place.

If you are struggling in a relationship with someone today, may I suggest that you start loving that person unconditionally and without reserve?  Read I Corinthians 13 right now and put it into practice. Start treating them like they are special and see if they don’t just return that love. And, even if they don’t respond in the way you want right away (this process can take days or even years), you will be filled with the knowledge and peace that you are doing the right thing according to God’s Word (Mark 12:31).

 

Long-Term Benefits

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We were on the highway, headed back to our campground after a fun day of sight-seeing, when we came upon this extremely slow car in the passing lane. I find slow cars in the passing lane rather frustrating. I don’t care if someone prefers to drive slow, I just appreciate if they stay in the appropriate lane for their speed.

As we scooted to the right lane to pass them, I glanced in the car, expecting to see an elderly person.

Instead, what I saw confounded me. It was a young woman intently texting on her phone. In the passing lane. On a busy highway.

How dumb do you have to be if you are texting in the passing lane?? (My apologies to you if you have done this. I am not trying to be unkind, but common sense tells us that we shouldn’t text and drive at all, much less in the passing lane of a major highway!)

She is so typical of this day and age, where we just do not think through the possible consequences of our actions.

We are so focused on the present and what we want to do, that we care little for our own lives or the lives of those around us. And this is true in many other aspects of our lives, as well.

My husband and I were having a conversation with friends the other night and the subject of friendship with our kids came up. We are now at the stage where we are beginning wonderful friendships with our kids. But if we had tried to be their friend ten years ago, we would have sacrificed the friendship we have now. We had to delay our present desires (our kids to like us) for their future benefit (and our future benefit, as well).

Delaying gratification is not a popular concept these days. Think of all the dumb stuff we do on a daily basis because of the immediate gratification we receive–

~Eat when we aren’t hungry to fulfill the “appetite” of our eyes.

~Choose processed foods and mixes to save ourselves time.

~Give in to our child so we aren’t embarrassed or so they will like us.

~Buy something we don’t need or go into debt to “keep up with the Joneses”.

~Watch something crude and profane to get a few laughs.

Honestly, when it comes right down to it, many of us choose immediate gratification over long-term benefit all the time.

So what do we get if we decide to choose future benefits instead of immediate gratification? I can think of a few, very worthy things that you will probably receive (although there are always exceptions, of course)–

~We will not be haunted for life by the image of killing another human being because we were texting and driving on a major highway (this one is guaranteed, by the way–if you don’t text and drive, you won’t kill someone while doing it!)

~We will have a healthy body.

~We will stay out of debt.

~We will have obedient and respectful children (instead of the little tyrants I see running around everywhere these days! I shudder to think about what this world will be like as these undisciplined, self-centered kids grow up).

~We will become more like Christ.

As we grow more mature in Christ and exercise self-discipline in these areas, the decisions become easier because they become habits. The first few times we say no to that dessert or to buying something that we can’t afford, it hurts terribly. The first time we hold our ground with our kids and provide consequences for their fits, we will feel just awful inside. The first time we turn off that TV show or radio station, we will feel disappointed. But, if you can stick with it long enough, it gets easier because it becomes a habit. And before you know it, you have taken some leaps and bounds towards a better life.

I don’t know if the girl who was texting will ever have to pay the ultimate price for her stupidity. It seems that oftentimes many people get away with the Russian Roulette game they play every day. But we need to do the right thing, even if we never experience negative consequences.

And one final thing–of course, sometimes we fall back into our old habits as we strive to make good choices. That is where perseverance comes in. If you are reading this and are at a bad place and ready to give up, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on! We can’t give up! Perfection and perfect rest will come soon enough, but for now we are here to labor on in our quest to become more like Christ, to share the gospel, and to glorify God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powerful Words

 

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The girl stood taller than the rest of the children. She was older than they were and she felt awkward and even ugly next to all that adorableness. This was a tough time for her, as that stage between childhood and adulthood often is for many of us.

As the children played, the adults talked. And she felt like she didn’t fit anywhere. She would be glad when the evening was over. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the family that was visiting her home. She just felt like she didn’t belong.

As they gathered together to eat, the mother of the visiting family unobtrusively whispered in the girl’s ear, telling her that she would be so happy if her young daughter would grow up to be just like her.

To a struggling twelve year old, these words were some of the most encouraging she could have offered. The young girl, now in her 20s, has never forgotten that moment of encouragement during a challenging time of her life.

My daughter told me this story only yesterday. I am not sure I had ever heard it before. But as she expressed her gratefulness for the woman and her wise words, I again realized the power of words.

We forget that words have the power to break someone down or build someone up. And so many of us are in the habit of  sharing the negative and never sharing the positive. We feel very comfortable saying what we don’t like, what we think someone should be, what improvements are necessary, and how someone isn’t meeting our expectations.

But when things are going well or there is something we really appreciate, so many of us tend to keep our mouths shut.

Many years ago, during a time when I was playing piano solos in my church, I realized the encouragement that could be given with just a few words.  I would work hard at a song and would feel rather deflated if no one told me they appreciated my hard work. And yet, if even just one person took a brief moment to thank me, I would feel like the work was worthwhile.

Now, God used this to teach me a myriad of lessons, the most important being that I should not long for the praise of men (I am still learning that lesson, by the way). But another lesson I learned during that time is that if I appreciate something about someone, I need to let them know.

Whether you talk to them in passing, take them for coffee, or write a short note to express appreciation, taking the time to share your positive thoughts is always a good idea.

God has dedicated a good portion of James 3 to this topic of the tongue. James tells us that–

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (verses 6-8)

This passage shows us that our words have great power, doesn’t it? As much as we have power to use it for evil, we also have the power to use it for good.

I heard a testimony the other day of a man who had come to know the Lord as an adult. As he talked about his faith in Christ, he mentioned that before he was even beginning to think about Christianity, someone had planted seeds of life in his heart. It would be several years before those seeds came to fruition, but that wise person had planted them, just the same.

Encouraging others and planting seeds of the gospel– now that is what I want my words to do. Don’t you?

Why do we find it so much easier to use our tongues to express irritation, to gossip, to argue, and to belittle? Why do we find it so much easier to close our mouths shut tight and not say anything?

Scripture is so clear on this, speaking to this very topic directly in a multitude of verses–

Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 18:21, Matthew 12:36, Proverbs 16:24, Proverbs 16:23-24, Proverbs 15:23, I Thessalonians 5:11

And there are many more.

Let’s use our words today to build up and encourage. Let’s use our tongues to plant seeds for the gospel. And let’s wisely consider each word before it is spoken.