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Giving Oneself

“Maturity starts with the willingness to give oneself.”
Elisabeth Elliot
Giving of oneself means being poured out, just like the fountains pictured above. There is no end to the flow of this water; it keeps giving. I sat near it all afternoon yesterday and watched it and heard its thunderous roar. It never stopped.
My giving should be the same, but it’s not. I wither up because I’m not constantly plugged into the Living Water. Relying on my own limited resources and strength causes the flow to become a drip, and then the drip eventually turns to nothing. I get tired of giving. “Can’t someone else do this?” “Why do I always have to sacrifice?” Spiritual maturity means giving of myself. Spiritual immaturity is a picture of a little child throwing a temper tantrum when they’re asked to share. “Mine!” is their favorite word. It comes from my lips too often. Immature. Ouch.
Note that the quote says maturity starts with the willingness to give oneself. After you give yourself to the Lord and others, you give what you have – your possessions, money, resources, food, your home, etc.

While I do business with the Lord and dust off my britches from pitching a “temper tantrum,” how about if you check your maturity level? I trust your results are better than mine!

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Menu Planning Saves Time and Money

At our ladies’ retreat a couple weeks ago we offered several different workshops from which the ladies could choose. The one I taught was on multi-tasking. Aside from being reminded that the reason we want to use our time wisely is because our minutes are a gift from God, one important tip I gave the ladies is that of planning a weekly menu. I was surprised to learn that the habit of creating a menu of what they eat each week was a new idea for most. I challenged the ladies to sit down at the beginning of the week and write out a simple menu plan. Why? Because planning out your meals will do four things:

  1. It will save you money. It reduces trips to the grocery store and impulsive spending. Using leftovers efficiently cuts food waste, while planned buying in bulk makes it easy to stockpile freezer meals at reduced prices.
  2. A menu plan saves time. No dash to the neighbors for a missing ingredient, no frantic searches through the freezer for something, anything to thaw for dinner.
  3. A menu plan improves nutrition. Without the daily dash to the supermarket, there’s time to prepare side dishes and salads to complement the main dish, increasing the family’s consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  4. A menu also provides better variety. You’ll have time to look through recipes and cookbooks and try new foods rather than getting stuck in the same old grind.

To get started you can use a calendar, or just a piece of paper with the days of the week written at the top. Write down the main course, side dish and/or salad, and dessert you plan on fixing for each day. Look through the sale papers for the local stores and see what’s on sale and plan accordingly. If you see that hamburger and chicken breasts are on sale, this would be the week to make dishes using those meats.

Having your menu for supper planned allows you time to begin working on the meal earlier in the day, rather than waiting until everyone is starved. You can thaw the meat early in the day, or make the salad the night before.

Once you get into the habit of planning out the supper menu you can move on to planning breakfast foods, lunches and snacks. This simple step will save you time and money and it takes less time than you’d imagine.

Do you regularly plan a menu? How has it helped you and your family? What is on your menu for this week?

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Considering the Lilies

This weekend found us moving our daughter to college. Whew! Thank the Lord for a mini van!
As she sat in the floor of her room packing the last of her belongings the night before leaving, she got a bit emotional about the transition that was in front of her. I understood – my emotions have been in my throat for a week. I’m so happy for her, yet it’s just unbelievable that this time has come so quickly. I’ve gone back and forth – happy, then melancholy; excited, then fearful.

God knows what we need before we do. Yesterday morning in the church service we attended a song was sung by the choir with the pastor singing the verses as a solo. The song? Consider the Lilies. I love the song; our family has sung it in church with one daughter at the piano, the other on her violin accompanying my husband and me. Remembering us singing it recently made it special. But the words were a sweet reminder that I can trust my God for the care of my younger daughter at college. She’s young, she’s new at college life, but He is aware of where she is and what she needs and I can trust Him – especially when I consider the lilies… Matthew 6:27-29

God also gave me a wise husband who planned for us to get away to the beach after taking our daughter to college. He suggested that we take some vacation time, before going back home. How smart that was! We prayed and the Lord has provided a lovely condo at an extremely reasonable rate. Here’s the view out our patio window…

As I had my devotions recently I read Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Immediately the Lord brought to my mind that there is also a purpose for every time. How I long to use this season of my life to honor the Lord. It would be very easy to live for myself now that I have more free time, but I want it to count for eternity. I’m asking the Lord for the purpose of this season, and I pray that this week while we’re away He’ll show me a bit of what that may be.

How wonderful it is to relax after a very busy summer. So for now I’ll rest…and consider the lilies.

Consider The Lilies
Written by: Joel Hemphill

Verse I
Consider the lilies they don’t toil nor spin
And there’s not a king with more splendor than them
Consider the sparrow they don’t plant or sow
But they’re fed by the Master who watches them grow

Chorus

We have a Heavenly Father above
With eyes full of mercy
And a heart full of love
He really cares when
Your head is bowed low
Consider the lilies and then you will know

Verse II

Now may I introduce you to this friend of mine
Who hangs out the stars and tells the sun when to shine
And kisses the flowers each morning with dew
But He’s not too busy to care about you

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Dealing with the Fools in Your Life – God is Good

As we continue through the end of the story of Abigail we find that she and David are to become man and wife. Surely now her life will be a bed of roses, a piece of cake, life on easy street – right? Wrong. Consider the circumstances of her new marriage:

  • She is wife number three!
  • For years she had to wander with David’s band of 600 men as a fugitive.
  • She had to deal with David’s unbridled passion again when he had an affair with Bathsheba.

No, heartache was not over in this woman’s life.

No matter what stage of life you are in, life is hard, but God is good. In those early years of marriage most couples have nothing. Times are hard, but God is good. During the early years of parenting sleep is limited and peace and quiet is rare. Times are hard, but God is good. When children hit their teen years, the boundaries are stretched, parents are tested. Times are hard, but God is good. Relationship are tested in the home and in the workplace. Times are hard, but God is good. As we grow older our bodies fail, health problems are many, strength is small. Times are hard, but God is good.

A woman can have her wish list and say, “If only I could be married to that man! If I could be married to a man like David, life would be so much better. He’s so much more godly. I’d love to be married to a David. Really? He was a man given to moods and depression. He had women troubles.

There is no trouble-free existence this side of heaven, but God is good. There is a fairy tale ending if you’re a child of God, but it is not here. It’s not now. We must take the long view. Looks towards heaven. If you’re living with a Nabal, know that God will avenge all evil and all evil doers. God will bless and reward you if you wait for Him.

We’re all tempted to play the “if only” game and be discontented with our situation. I remember when our youngest daughter was a toddler, she had the hardest time when supper time came. She would be seated at the table with us, and because she was such an active little person, she grew weary of being seated at the table after only a few minutes. She would begin to swing her legs back and forth as she pleaded to get down so she could go play. After many “issues” at supper I decided to try something. I went ahead and let her get down with the warning that if she didn’t eat her supper she’d have to eat it sometime until it was gone. I’d wrap her plate up and put it in the fridge. Then after she’d been playing outside for a while she’d get hungry, and come inside for a cookie. Mommy warmed up her supper and put it in front of her to eat instead. She’d eat a few bites and go outside. Then a while later, she’d be back inside because she was hungry. The plate was heated again. and again. It wasn’t long before she realized that this meal was better the first time it was put before her, and that she’d better eat then go play. She understood in her small way that Mommy had given her something good to be enjoyed the first time it was placed before her.

We laugh at a child’s ability to manipulate to get their way when they don’t like what’s been given to them, but we do the very same thing. We become discontented with our house and begin “swinging our legs” and whining how we’d like a bigger one. We see another man who seems a better husband than our own and wish we could have one like him instead! In the midst of a trial, we want out, and begin to wail for our scenery to be changed. Our good God has given us what He knew was best, but we are discontent.

Contentment is being satisfied with one’s position, status, or situation. It is the sweet inward quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to God’s wise and Fatherly disposal in every condition. What situation or thing in your life finds you discontented? What makes you swing your legs and the table and cry to be excused?

Philippians 4:11 and 12 are very familiar verses to us. Paul is writing about contentment from a prison cell! He says in verse 11 that he has learned to be content. The word, learned, means that he learned by experience. He didn’t automatically have contentment the moment he was saved, he had to go through many difficult experiences in life in order to learn to be content. Then in verse 12 he says that he is instructed to be full and to suffer hunger, to abound and suffer need. The word, instructed, means something different than the word learned in verse 11. It means to be initiated into the secret. Through trial and testing, Paul was initiated into the wonderful secret of contentment in spite of poverty or prosperity. Where did he get this? In the secret place. Psalm 91:1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. When Paul was in a place that was hard to accept, he took it to the Throne of Grace and prayed about it. This is the only place where you and I will learn to be content. What is it that you’re struggling with? Take it to the Throne. Make it a matter of prayer. Only then will you learn to accept it as Paul accepted his imprisonment, hunger and suffering.

In the Secret of His Presence

In the secret of His presence

How my soul delights to hide.

Oh how precious are the lessons

that I learn at Jesus’ side.

Earthly cares can never vex me,

Neither trials lay me low,

For when Satan comes to tempt me

to the Secret Place I go!

I tell him all my doubts,

my griefs, my fears,

How patiently He listens,

and my drooping soul He cheers.

Do you think He ne’er reproves me?

What a false friend He would be

if He never told me of the sins which He doth see.

Would you like to know the secret

of the presence of the Lord?

Come and rest beneath His shadow,

this shall then be your reward.

And when ‘er you leave the presence

of that happy meeting place,

You will surely bear the image

of the Master in your face!

–Ellen Goseth

As you continue to deal the fool in your life what do you do now?

You learn to wait. You endure hardship and suffering (not ever physical suffering – get out of a physically abusive situation and find safety and help!).

You learn wisdom.

You take the long view. Remember your life is bundled up in the Lord our God. In the long run God will take vengeance.

You let God use your life to influence Nabals and Davids. On the front end you don’t know who’s a Nabal and who’s a David. God had a plan for Nabal’s life and he used Abigail to bring that about. Her responsibility was to be this godly influence. How they responded was up to them – not her! We need godly, wise, biblical women today.

Why is this story of Abigail in our Bible? Romans 15:4 Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience, and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. There is hope for your Nabal. There is hope for your situation. Remember Abigail and be comforted.

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How To Deal with the Fools in your Life – A Happy Ending?

As girls, we grew up reading stories with happy endings. The prince rides off with his princess and they live happily ever after. At least that’s what we hope will happen. We’re now at the end of the story of Abigail and it seems that in a way Abigail’s story does have an fairy tale ending…or does it?

In I Samuel 25, we see that Abigail’s husband Nabal has died. David is rejoicing because God had avenged him of Nabal’s insults. What will be the response of others when we die? Will there be great rejoicing because another foolish person has been taken out of the lives of those that have had to suffer because of us? Or will the hearts of those that knew us mourn as Samuel was mourned at the beginning of the chapter?

In verses 40-42 David has sent messengers to Abigail’s home. They went with a simple message. It is not quite a proposal of marriage, but more like a summons. “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” This decisive woman doesn’t have to be asked twice! Quickly she bows to the ground, humbly accepting the offer. She does not look on herself as David’s queen, but as his maidservant, who will happily wash the feet of his servants. Again, we see her humble heart. She “hasted” to follow the men and become David’s wife.

This is the fourth time the word, hasted is used referring to Abigail’s response to something. We see it in verses 18, 23, 34, and 42. This was a woman who didn’t waste any time when she knew what she should do. Oh, that we would be so quick to follow when the Lord leads us. We need to be quick to share the Gospel, quick to encourage, quick to supply a need, quick to obey.

Now Abigail marries the man whom she had kept from bloodshed. Her discernment had kept him safe. Abigail’s wisdom enables her to be an intimate companion and counselor to her husband. As a wife, our godly discernment should be a blessing to our husband. As a woman our godly discernment should be a blessing to our children, our co-workers, and neighbors.

At this point, the story does seem like a fairy-tale ending. She gets to marry this handsome man who will soon be king! We can almost see them riding off into the sunset. You might feel as if you’re married to a Nabal, a fool, an insensitive person, and then a “David” comes along. He’s a nice caring, loving person and you start thinking of how Abigail ended up with David. Don’t go there. Abigail doesn’t do the things she does hoping that Nabal will keel over and she’ll end up with David. Her actions are done to save her family. Don’t give up on your home. Don’t give up on your marriage. If Abigail had wanted Nabal dead she wouldn’t have stopped David when he was on the warpath, but she stopped him! Do what you can to save your family. If judgement is needed remind yourself that God is in control. He is in the heavens and He will do as He pleases. Psalm 115:3

Tomorrow we’ll look down the path of Abigail’s marriage to David and see if it was really as fairy-tale like as it seemed.

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Motherhood

The other night I was with a young mother who was talking about how busy her days are. She said, “I don’t even remember what I did with my time before I had my children. I truly do not!” I tried to encourage her that though it seems like this task is never-ending, it will soon pass. I should know. I’m staring at the back door to our nest. You know, it’s the one you open and watch as your child flies out of so they can go to college, or follow wherever the Lord leads them.

This Friday we’ll take our youngest to begin her freshman year at a Christian college. Everyone says it, but no one has an answer to the question: Where did all those years go? It seems like one minute you’re holding their hand while they cross the street with you, baby doll under one arm and a blankie under the other, and the next thing you know their arms are laden with the baggage needed to take them to college. Oh yes, there were all those days in between, but they’re a blur.

Did I teach my daughter enough about how she needs to rely on the Lord for every little thing? Does she have Scriptures tucked in her heart because I taught them to her? Does she know enough about her God to help her to stand when she’s questioned about her faith? Have I trained her in such a way that her godly character will shine for the Lord’s glory? Does she know that there’s nothing more valuable than walking with God and serving Him? Does she know how empty the things of the world are and how rich she is in Christ? Does she know that I love her unconditionally…that I’d give my life for her? Will she remember the fun times that we had in our home, or will the times I messed up and blew it as a mom be at the forefront of her memories of home life? I don’t know…only the Lord does. In the meantime I continue to pray for her:

Colossians 1:9-12
9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:


Yes, if the Lord will answer this request in the form of these verses, my life as a mother will be full and blessed.

I’ve shared that passage with other mothers who desire their children walk with God. I encourage you, dear friend to pray this passage for your family. God will hear. God will answer. Let’s unite our hearts around the throne and be encouraged as moms. Whether you’re at the beginning of this calling or watching the last one fly away as I am, let’s be committed to pray this Scripture and watch what God will do.

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The Alarm System

Recently I was sitting outside on a bench of a shopping area waiting on my family. It was relatively quiet until all of the sudden a car alarm began to blare, blast, and blow. This alarm was different than others I have heard. It didn’t just go, “HONK, HONK, HONK!” The alarm gave several different kinds of honks with the horn, then it would change and do something altogether different. In between the types of honking sounds it would give four gentle taps with the horn. I half expected a marching band to come parading out of the back seat!

 
I got up soon after it began to look at the car from the sidewalk, but didn’t see any action around the car that was carrying on so. I expected I’d see a whole band of gangsters prying the doors and windows open with all the racket the car was making. But there was no one. Evidently the owner had set if off accidentally from the inside the store (kind of funny!)
 
I watched, however, at the people that were coming in and out of the stores as the alarm continued to wail. They walked by, never even giving the siren-like noises near them a second glance. I mean it, they never even peaked over at the car! I think most people have become so accustomed to hearing car alarms go off only because the owners hit the alarm button on the key fob, that they just dismiss the fact that someone could be in danger. Grocery carts are wheeled down the parking lot right past a car whose alarm is sounding, without anyone ever really giving the blaring horn a second glance or thought.
 
We’re often tempted to ignore another warning – one in our spiritual lives. I’m referring to that warning of the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin. “I’ve heard that before” we say as we listen to our pastor preach a message. “I’ll be okay…I won’t fall to sin. That won’t bother me.” So we fail to put up protective hedges in our personal relationships with men. We watch whatever we want on television, or listen to whomever we wish because “we’re fine.” The alarm is honking, yet we ignore the message of danger. We harbor bitterness, gossip on the phone, neglect time in God’s Word, turning a deaf ear to the sweet Holy Spirit’s warning.
 
The car’s alarm finally did go off when the owners hit the button on the key fob. I’m sure there were many other times a car alarm has stopped its blaring because a predator got what they wanted. The Spirit’s alarm will stop too, when one of two things happen. Either:
 
1. We heed the warning and confess our sin
2. We ignore the warning long enough and the Holy Spirit’s conviction eventually stops. Now we suffer punishment from our loving God who chastens us as a Father corrects his son. Hebrews 12:7
 
Let’s don’t ignore the warnings that God gives us…listen and make it right! Oh, and if you hear an alarm going off in a parking lot, do the owner a favor and investigate (from a distance). =)
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