Families Reunite!

Forgiveness Isn’t An Option

Show of hands… how many of us have a dysfunctional family to some degree or another? I bet just about everyone would have to agree that no family is perfect. They’re full of imperfect people, all cut from different cloths, have different ideas, come from different backgrounds (for those who have married into families), are in different places in life, and base their decisions on their own personal experiences. To think we should all think the same way is ridiculous. I have so many friends working through personal family issues, as well as personal experiences that are a little closer to home, and honestly, it makes my heart sad to see satan win.

Sadly, in addition to adult relationships, the disagreements or misunderstandings of the adults involved have an adverse effect on the children – nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. and they don’t even have a say.  Relationships that could have been, won’t, and what was, will never be again. Grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles with their nieces and nephews, brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters, brothers and sisters, parents and children, in-laws, etc… We need to put aside our petty disagreements and think of the long term effect that our selfishness, grudge holding, prideful, bitterness, and unforgiving hearts are causing. Now, we can all think of our own reasoning to “justify” our behavior in separating, isolation, or refusing to reach out to one another. But honestly, unless there is a threat of danger, those reasons are invalid. Disagree? Make you angry? Step on your toes? In pride, do we think we should wait on the “offender” to make the first move? Perhaps we need to take a look at what the Bible tells us to realign our hearts with His. Expecting someone to walk on eggshells for us, or to behave in such a particular manner because it suits or serves us is ridiculous.

Those of us in Christ, as Christ followers:

REAL forgiveness is not an act or a show. It’s a choice we make. 1 John 2:9 says, “Anyone who professes to be in the light and yet hates his brother is still in darkness.”   We are called to love our enemies as well as continue to forgive. Matthew 6:12 says “Forgive us our debts as AS WE ALSO forgive our debtors.” Did you see that? As WE ALSO forgive. It doesn’t say ‘as we would like to forgive,’ ‘as we will forgive one day when the feeling hits us,’ or ‘for those who “deserve” my forgiveness.’ It says AS WE ALSO FORGIVE. It’s not a suggestion. Satan has no better pleasure than to see families separate and torn apart. He loves a prideful, bitter, grudge holding spirit. And he will use it to his fullest advantage. It’s time for Christ following families to put all that aside, extend that olive branch – regardless if the “offender” deserves it or not. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, but being merciful, we are granted that forgiveness through our faith in Jesus Christ. What if He waited until He felt like it or until we deserved it before we were forgiven? That day may never come.

So, cast aside that bitterness, that grudge you’ve been holding on to, and ask Him to help us deal with an unforgiving spirit. Chances are, the offender isn’t the only guilty party. Forgiveness is a choice we make, and we, as Christ followers are commanded to do this. Let’s rid ourselves, with His help, of the notion that our actions are justified, of that bitter, grudge holding spirit.

Col 3:12-13… “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Families – reunite. There are memories to be made, relationships to mend, some to build. Regardless of the past, family is family. Whether you were born into it, were adopted into it, or married into it. It’s your family and it’s your (our) responsibility to be Christ-centered in our relationships – family included… dysfunction, misunderstandings, and disagreements and all.

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School’s Out For Summer

So… I won’t lie.  I log on this morning, check my messages, emails, and do a bit of business before heading over to check out my Facebook feed/messages.  In the first TWO posts on my feed, I was just irritated.  Perhaps it was my lack of coffee, the quality and length of last night’s slumber, or just the big long ‘To-Do’ list for the day staring at me that put me in a mood.  Perhaps not.

Just a sampling of what I read – again, pre-coffee:

“Hoping for a short summer!”

“What are we going to do with them now that they’re out of school?!”

“When can i send them back??”

“Ask me next week if I’m ready for summer break”

“They’ll be bored in a few days”

That’s just naming a few.  I know… Ugh.

Just a bit of backgound…  These posts are from fellow stay at home moms.  Did you get that?  I said MOMS.  I’m not referring to those who are working two jobs to make ends meet.  These are moms who have lost their precious time alone during the day, or who now have a few extra kiddos to parent.  I’m sure this will probably ruffle a few feathers.  And don’t get me wrong.  I know we, as moms, all need a break.  What we do is endless, lifechanging, and is tiresome.  We dont’ get vacations… and honestly, if they were offered, how many of us would actually take them away from our precious little ones anyway?

So my two cents before I endulge in this cup of coffe…  Parents – they’re OUR kids.  They are OUR blessings from our Father.  They are given to us for a short time.  In that time, we are to nurture, love, raise up, correct, encourage, and well… parent.  It’s not easy, but it IS our job; not someone else’s.  Personally, we homeschool.  Just our conviction – and to each their own.  But when you have your children with you at home allday , it’s nothing short of a blessing.  They’re bored?  So what!  Get out there, go for a nature walk, head to the pool, library, make cookies, do a fun family project, arts and crafts (without the glitter please – lol)… I could go on.  It’s a great time to come together, be that influence, raise our children instead of the school system/govt, and parent.  Children are NOT a burden.  A challenge?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Of course.  A button pusher?  Occassionally.  But they’re ours – and with parenting, comes the good, the bad, AND the ugly.  Tired?  With four kids,  our dogs, our home business, homeschool, being keeper of the home, wife (just to name a few) – I am EXHAUSTED.  I’m exhausted right now as I type this sentence.  But no matter how tired I am, I am thankful for the gifts He has given me.  We are stewards of what God has blessed us with.  For those who have children who attend public school, private school, and homeschool, school is out for the summer.  Even year round homeschoolers will be breaking or slowing down this summer.  Let’s look at that time as another blessing – a time of togetherness, a time to parent and BE that influence.  It’s not a burden, a punishment, or something to look at with disgust.  These are our children moms (and dads)!  So, let the summer fun begin!  Family time and memories await!

Now… off to enjoy mine. 🙂

Blessings,

A Tired Mom

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To Judge or Not to Judge… Is that REALLY the Question?

To Judge or Not to Judge… Is that REALLY the Question?

Recently, in some of my various groups, classes, and just in general conversation recently, the topic of ‘judging’ has become the topic of discussion. Matthew 7:1 does clearly say “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Christians and non-Christians alike use this verse. It’s either used as a “sin shield,” protecting themselves, or it’s used as a defensive tactic when we do not wish to take a public stand against some sin or other non-Christ-like behavior. Many use this as such an “absolute” argument ender. Because Jesus said it, you can’t judge me, my behavior, or how I choose to live my life, right? Not exactly so… let’s look at this further.

In this context, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees. Often the Pharisees and the scribes set the bar so high, it was almost impossible to meet those standards, and all the while, the same Pharisees were doing the same things! This is what Jesus is talking about. In this context, the word “judge” (gk. Krino) isn’t a reference to a legal judgment, but judging with more of a critical spirit. How hypocritical is it to be indulging in a sin, over and over again, and then, with a critical spirit, condemn a brother or sister who is owning the same sin? When Jesus talks about taking the plank from your own eye so you can see the speck in your bother’s… this is what He was referring to.

We are human and none of us are perfect. However, there is still a standard we are called to strive for. Those who repent and place their full trust and faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation, are the “children of God.” And as believers in His kingdom, we are called to live differently from the world. Look back at the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus is telling us how to live as a faithful, follower of Christ. These are our standards.

Remember, satan is smart. Even he knows Scripture and he loves to use it in a twisty way that will cause us to stumble – if he tried this with Jesus, what makes us think he won’t try it with us too? Think about it… why would we never reach out to a brother or sister who have strayed or erred and not help them back up? Why would we intentionally allow them to continue to stray farther and farther away? This is what satan wants. The farther we stray from God, the closer we get to him. It’s looking with a discerning heart, and NOT a critical heart that is what we are called to do. Calling sin, sin isn’t judging in itself. It’s when we call out our others sin with a critical heart, and not one of love, that this verse applies.

The apostles have called us to help those who struggle with sin. “ My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20” In Galatians, Paul says “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” They knew we would – and by all accounts had witnessed themselves – the wandering from that path we are called to walk as Christ-followers. We need to hate what breaks His heart – sin. Not just others’ sins, but our own as well. In love, we need to help each other along. If one stumbles, we need to reach out and pull them along, and at times, we will be the ones needing that hand to help pull us back on to that straight and narrow path.

Jesus doesn’t forbid moral judgment or accountability. What He DOES forbid is doing so with a prideful, hypocritical heart, not looking at the condition of our own hearts. The world will take Matt 7:1 and use it as a “sin shield” to justify living their lives as they’d like, having no moral boundaries, or accountability. Do not be misled – this “sin shield” is no match for the Armor of God. There is nothing wrong with calling sin what it is. God hates sin. So should we. All sin – including our own. Accountability, restoration, and repentance are not bad words. They are a part of our daily walk with Christ.

We should all take a personal inventory of how we address sin and with what heart we do so. Is it with a loving, sincere heart that desires restoration and fellowship? Or is it done with an insincere, critical spirit?

So, the next time you hear the argument “Judge not, that you be not judged,” look at that sin shield for what it really is and speak in love.

 

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Working Without The Vision

We are currently working on body systems and biology in our homeschool classroom this semester.  No matter how many times we go through the various body systems, it’s amazing to think of just how amazing they are independently and how PERFECTLY they work together to form our bodies.  If just one system is out of whack, it throws off the whole thing!

Isn’t that true for the Body of Christ as well?  We are CALLED to be His Hands and Feet.  We often ask for Him to use us, to BE those Hands and Feet on the ground, but sadly, if we don’t ask for His eyes as well, then we won’t be as effective in those ministries. Like an architect building a grand bridge with no blueprints that will surely fall with the first onset of wind or unseen force, we are working without the vision – HIS vision – when we proceed without asking for His eyes!   We ought to ask for Him to give us those eyes daily, to see others as He sees them, as He sees US!

Working in a particular ministry, I’ve seen and heard other ‘Christians’ getting into discussions and even debates about how certain people make their own choices to be in certain situations, helping them is just a waste of time, and they deserve what they get.  Seriously?  Sure, we all make our own choices and those choices – good OR bad – have consequences… again, those are good or bad based on the choices we make.  It’s so easy to get lost in our own little small world around us to be so jaded and blind to what others experience, live through, are brought up in, or even other mind sets.  Our job as Christians aren’t to pick and choose those who are good enough to “make the cut” to help.  Quite frankly, none of us should have “made the cut” on that A-List when Christ died on the cross.  None of us. It doesn’t matter which side of the tracks you live on, how many zeros are at the end of that paycheck, how many children you have (or don’t have), how big your bank account is, if you have a financial advisor, if you homeschool or don’t, if you receive government assistance or not.  It’s a heart matter.  We are to be Jesus to those around us – ALL those around us.  We are to be His hands and feet, guided by HIS eyes, not our own.

So the next time you think “they’ll never change,” “they are just set in their ways,” or “they don’t deserve help,” please remember you don’t walk in their shoes, haven’t been exposed to certain cultures, and have your own, unique set of circumstances.  When He calls, you answer, no questions asked.  Uncomfortable?  Sorry, but it doesn’t really matter does it?  How uncomfortable was Jesus hanging on that cross?  He died for us, we can LIVE for Him!

Want to complain about the way things are, talk down to or about those in a “lesser” position in our opinion (lesser doesn’t always equate to someone with limited means, but it could be someone who is exalted, wealthy, or living comfortably!),  but not be willing to get out there, get a little dirty, and show others the love of Jesus? Then as a Christian, please keep your opinions to yourself… or better yet, between you and God … because if we claim to be His Hands and Feet, but don’t possess His eyes for the lost, the hurting, the depressed, the down, those we don’t understand, those who need to hear about Jesus, those in need of second, third, or even MORE chances, then WE may be the ones who need a heart transplant.

I challenge everyone to ask for not only to be His Hands and Feet today, but to ask for His eyes, to see people as HE sees them, and NOT as we do.  For when we see through His eyes, then we can further the Kingdom work by HIS perfect vision, not our own from our limited perspectives.  Love like Jesus, be bold like Paul, and come back and do things HIS way, like Jonah.

Now let’s get going! : )

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Represent!

Maybe it’s just me, but it never ceases to amaze me what I hear come from the mouths of self proclaiming followers of Christ.  It seems more often than not, I’m left shaking my head and walking away with a heavy heart.  I’m not talking about just sin in general.  We all sin and we all sin differently.  What concerns me, is the total disregard for even the most basic of principals and commands we are given as Christians.  We don’t make up the rules as we go, do what “feels right,” and live how we “want” to live (or DO we?).  We already have an instruction manual for life and how we, as Christians, are to live.  BIBLE = Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth 🙂

I must say… I just deleted several paragraphs of personal examples I wanted to share that I felt would help you understand,  that have, most recently, made an impression in my life or the life of my family and close friends… from abortion (including the morning after pill, which IS STILL abortion), discussions on earning your way into heaven, “we don’t need to go to church or be a part of the body” rationalizing,  same gender marriage, fellow Christians who hold grudges, being argumentative just for the sake of arguing, unforgiving, slander, gossip, pride… The list goes on and on and on and on…  The details of each are really irrelevant.  But what IS relevant is what all these things have in common.  What DO they have in common? None of them are representative of being a Christian.  Granted, no one is perfect.  But as a Christian, the Holy Spirit is IN you.  And as a Christian, if the Spirit is in you, then you WILL have moments of conviction, and conviction leads to repentance, and repentance to restoration.  If there is no conviction, then there should be a true salvation check.

When we are given that title ‘Christian,’ it’s a big deal.  We are representatives of Christ.  Did you read that?  Say it out loud.  “We are REPRESENTATIVES of Christ!”  What we say, do, how we live, even how we THINK… it’s all FOR Him, ABOUT Him, and is to GLORIFY Him.  I say this a lot, but I do because it’s truth:  We may be the only Bible someone reads.  Is what they’re reading a good representation of who He is? Are we causing confusion to the world as to just who we “are” as Christians?  Or are we just content being self serving, having the title and not the job description?  Do not be misled – there are a lot of lost people sitting in church pews every week.  Going to church once a week doesn’t get you into Heaven.  It’s a genuine faith, trust, relationship, and life change – not just lip service.

Each one of us should take a daily inventory of our walk with Christ and what our motives are.  Is it all for Him or for ourselves?  I know we don’t like to talk about it, but hell is a very real place and people are sent there. All. The. Time.  Forever is a very, very long time to be in pain, anguish, constant suffering to a point that is beyond all words. Many “feel good” churches and pastors have a passive approach to the Gospel, only sharing the what is “appealing” or what makes us “feel better about ourselves.”  To omit the topic of Hell is just sending people there.  If we aren’t familiar with Hell, what it is, and how we are all destined FOR Hell, then how do we warn others of this fate?  We are the church and we can’t cherry pick what we like and don’t like.  I know people who go to churches with beautiful stained glass windows, with very nice people, quite a bit of money deposited into those offering plates each week, but have no true, genuine idea of what Hell really is because it’s not mentioned.  God is love.  Yes, oh yes!  Amen to that!  But He is also just – don’t omit the latter.  Just because you give what YOU think is acceptable, you volunteer your time (again, check your motives!), sing in the choir, or participate in church gatherings and mealtimes, or are a “nice” or “decent” person, does NOT mean you are going to Heaven and have avoided Hell.  There are people who call themselves “Christians” who are there right now.  But don’t forget – hell is a choice… OUR choice.    A good question to ask ourselves:  If I died right now, would I go to Heaven?  If your answer is ‘yes,’ then why?  If any of those answers are because of good deeds, a church membership, or being a “good” person, then I would urge you to speak with a pastor or brother or sister in Christ, because not one of those things won’t get you to Heaven.  Only Jesus.  Without exception.  We should rather offend someone into Heaven, than avoid them into hell.

As we go out into this world today, let’s remember Who we are representing.  The world is watching.

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Lines Are Drawn… Where Do You Stand?

Lines Are Drawn… Where Do You Stand?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Satan is smart.  He’s cunning.  He’s sly.  The King of Lies and Deceit.  And a host of other not-so-becoming adjectives.  He will do anything within his power to cease and hinder all efforts of Christians in doing the Kingdom work.  As Christians, we know this; however, we seem to have some sort of disconnect between this knowledge, and the reality of what’s being done.  And what happens when a house is divided?  Yep.  They cannot stand effectively.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the work, we somehow lose sight of the WHO and our efforts become more centered around self-pride and accomplishment, rather than not only experiencing pure joy from serving Him, but truly experiencing the wonderful, loving fellowship that often goes along with serving – that in itself is an amazing gift.  When we allow pride, arrogance, bitterness, greed, and selfishness to creep into our hearts, it will keep us from fully enjoying the blessings He has for us and will hinder not only our joint efforts to further the Kingdom work, but it WILL (without exception) have an effect on our own personal relationships with Him.

Pride, arrogance, bitterness, greed, and selfishness (just to name a few) are seeds sewn by Satan.  And if unattended, they WILL continue to grow and choke out other areas of our lives.  Sometimes that transition happens so slowly that it’s hard to see where we were, to where we’ve come… it’s just a gray area (and make no mistake… Satan likes us living in that gray place!).

Oftentimes, when there is a division (because there WILL be divisions), decisions are made.  Sides are chosen and lines are drawn.  How contrary is this for us as Christians to do!  The only side that should be chosen is His side.  After all, we’re all on the same team!  We all share the same opponent!  As Christians, we will have differences of opinions, things will happen, things will be said, feelings will be hurt.  It is so easy, when left unchecked, for bitterness and pride grab hold of that fertile ground and take root!  We must be always on guard, always on the offense, ready to rebuke the evil one and those seeds he likes to plant before they can cause division between His army.  None of us are perfect, and it’s hard to see the plank in our own eye sometimes, but we need to be aware that when our hearts, efforts, and lives are given to His service, Satan WILL attack – we’re not immune from those attacks.  It’s what we do when those attacks that makes the difference.

I’ve seen Christians use Scripture to defend their decisions to cut ties and draw lines with other believers (Romans 16:17-18 “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive”  for example).  Sometimes it’s not necessarily a bad thing for us to go different paths (and we can be MORE effective in some cases by doing so – IF done with the right heart!).  However, I’ve seen  Christians apologize for any wrong doing they’ve done to others, only to be still rejected and dismissed.  What does the “world” see when we aren’t able to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ? What are we showing them?  Be not deceived.  There is a difference in someone who constantly causes divisions and creates those obstacles, with an impure heart, than those who make the occasional wrong decision, with a loving, servant’s heart for the Lord.  Even Jesus commanded us to forgive our brothers seventy times seven times.  When a brother or sister repents and genuinely asks for forgiveness and isn’t welcomed back to the flock, there is a problem. I’ve seen this too often, even within Christian circles.  We allow Satan’s seeds to grow, clouding our vision; we find “safety” in like-minded groups, and that just seems to add fuel to the fire (or in this case, fertilizer 😉  ) – and just further divides His kingdom work.  Satan will use Scripture and try to manipulate it and make it “applicable” to further his cause.  As Christians, we can’t allow this!  Don’t forget – same team… same opponent!  Reunite and He will strengthen – there will be revival… not only within the Church, but within our own hearts – mending families and friendships, strengthening and growing our relationship with Him!

We must stand united and fight the good fight.  Seek out those tares that are hindering not only personal growth, but the unification and fruit bearing Kingdom Work.  He will bless those efforts when we submit ourselves to Him fully – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The Lord can take a bad situation and turn it into something amazing and wonderful.  But when we listen to our own hearts instead of His, we will fail – every time.  Submission isn’t a bad word.  Love isn’t conditional.  We’re either hot or cold – lukewarm isn’t optional.

When those lines are drawn, where will you stand?  Will you stand on the side of Truth, with love and forgiveness  in your heart with a desire to help build one another up, furthering the Kingdom work?  Or will you stand in that gray area, allowing bitterness and deceit to take root in your heart?  Please do not be deceived –  as Christians we are to stand in the Light – anywhere but the Light is still standing in darkness.

 

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

This was the year.  Yep.  Without a doubt (well, maybe one or two – hehe).  With all the frugal minded changes we had made in our family, I had decided it was time to graduate from our “planter garden” to a bigger garden.  Up until now, we’ve just had a few tomato plants in planters.  I haven’t had a big garden since I was a kid.  And with four little ones of our own, what better way to spend quality time together than to garden together?  It would be educational, quality family time, and many hands make the labor easier.  (Note to self:  this does NOT apply to small hands. 😉 Small hands tend to INCREASE the workload – but also increase that family time… so I guess we break even on that accord. LOL)  Just a few months in and I have to say, even though the crop isn’t ready for harvest yet, we’re already seeing a different KIND of harvest in those lessons learned – not only for our kids, but for myself and my husband as well.

Gardening is hard work.  Make no mistake about it.  Before anything can be planted, you first have to prepare the soil.  That requires a LOT of work… hoeing, shoveling, raking, removing those undesirables, adding in nutrients, mixing all that in…  I could go on. 😉  At this point, I was glad our garden wasn’t THAT big…

Once the soil is prepped and ready, you’re ready to plant.  We had chosen both seeds and a few mature plants for our garden.  But first, we hoed the rows for the beans, lettuce, carrots, and onions.  Dug holes for our tomatoes, more lettuce, and watermelon plants.  Once that was done, we planted and watered.  Quite pleased with ourselves, and over the coming weeks, we watched and waited, and watered some more.

We had a series of days where it seemed to rain just about every day and we weren’t able to get out to the garden.  When the clouds finally lifted, we went out to check on our little garden (which I must add, seems much bigger when you’re on your knees working it – lol!).  What we found was awesome!  Our little plants had been growing nicely, but that rain had given them a huge dose of “miracle grow.”  The seeds had grown several inches, the lettuce was ready to pick, huge tomatoes hung from the plants, the beans had blossoms, and were huge… but so were the weeds!

As I was crouched down on my knees weeding that garden, it occurred to me… our spiritual lives are just like that garden.  Just like preparing that soil, we have to prepare our hearts.  Once we do that, He does all the “cleaning out” of those “rocks” and other impurities and then He adds in the Good Stuff.  Then those seeds are planted…  And in that fertile soil, they begin to grow…  If you keep watch and water them regularly, they keep growing – this is us staying in His Word regularly, reading Scripture… if you stay in It, you keep growing.  Also just like that garden, we’ll see – and NEED – days of sunshine and rain.  Both are needed to grow like we should.  And what garden grows without weeds?  Just like our garden, we have to continually keep watch and “weed” those things out that would prevent us from continuing to grow.  It could be old habits, unhealthy friendships or relationships, self pride, jealousy, worldliness… the list of weeds goes on and on and is different from “garden to garden.”  Weeds are sneaky… they like to hide among the good stuff.  We have to be vigilant to find these hidden pests and rid them of our garden so it can continue to grow. Sometimes we even need to thin out good plants to keep that garden growing!   We all have “seasons,” just like our garden’s growing season/s.  We have to be mindful of those seasons and continue to water, nurture, weed, and thin out when necessary, so we can continue to grow.

So, big lessons learned from our little family garden.  I think the harvest before the harvest was the best harvest of all. 😉

How does YOUR garden grow?

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