Thursday, January 31, 2013

Notes From My Daughter

Focus and momentum
(2nd in a series written by my 19 year old daughter)



Human eyes are naturally limited. We can see far but we can’t see the whole picture clearly. 20/20 is considered normal vision, but it’s not perfect. Everybody’s vision is flawed and different. Within the human eye, there is naturally one blind spot where you cannot see anything at all.

Even with its natural flaws, the eye still has an amazing design. However, many of us also make choices that weaken the strength of our eye over time. We sit too close to screens, we don’t get enough vitamins, and we neglect to care for our eyes until we need them and ruin the optimum health. This post is not a lesson in eye health care, but it is a metaphor for how we humans live our lives.

Humans aren’t perfect, but we also make choices that lead us astray from a purposeful life. Our eyes serve many purposes one being vision, and along with vision comes FOCUS. Our pupil is the smallest and most central part of our eye, and has the ability to focus in on the things we need to see clearly.

Strangely as humans, and as Christians, we have a tendency to set our pupil on distractions rather than focusing on purpose. It seems more fun to relax, ignore reality, and blur out the important things rather than to be focused and centered. Our life gets cluttered with distractions, some by choice others out of our control. We lose perspective and everything that we tend to focus on is very shallow. Often, we ruin the optimum possibilities of our own lives from the choices that we make.

Some of us need to learn how to have the vision of a racehorse. All of them have on blinders so that they can only see what’s directly in front of them because if they were to see what’s happening outside of their lane they would:

  • Get scared and stop because of the audience
  • Move off of their direction and wander elsewhere
  • Lose of sight of the goal
  • Partake in activities that have NOTHING to do with the race they are running



My track coach used to tell us “Don’t ever look anywhere but forward while you are running because you will lose your momentum and slow down.” The crazy thing about losing momentum in a race is that you can never fully gain it back no matter how hard you try. I learned this the hard way in my last track meet of my freshmen year in high school where I was winning for 50% of the race, looked backwards because I doubted myself, lost my forward momentum and watched 3 girls run pass me (and didn’t qualify for the next round =/). When I moved in the wrong direction I lost my original purpose.

Some of you are like me; you doubt God, look another way and lose your momentum. Some of you are like the racehorse with no blinders on, distracted and moving in so many directions that don’t lead you to the finish line. Many of us can relate to both scenarios. There are many reasons, excuses, and circumstances that explain this lack of focus that happens to each and every one of us but one thing you have to remember is this:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus had also laid hold of me. Brethren I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press towards the GOAL for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”-Philippians 3:12-14 (If you have no goal, you have no direction, and if you have no direction, you have no focus, and so on. Paul admits he’s not perfect, but perfection is not the goal, God’s will is.)

We may get sidetracked but that should only last for a moment, not a lifetime. Grace, unlike momentum covers our faults and it’s something we don’t earn because of what we did (Christ’s death brought us this grace and freedom) but something that God gives us freely because he loves us and wants us to move forward. Moving forward requires us to look to God.

However we probably look in the mirror, at our friends, spouse, or family more than we look towards God which is sad because he’s the only one with an actual design and purpose for every part of our life. This often happens out of habit but the Bible clearly instructs us to do differently. 

“33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33 (God is the focus everything else is an addition, don’t switch it around and make everything else a focus and God the addition because that’s a formula for destruction).
The song “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” says “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” 

The more we look at Him, the closer we get to Him, and our focus in him strengthens. If you've ever seen a child learning how to walk they look straight at their parents while they hold their hands. If they look down gravity pulls them away; if they look sideways distractions pull them astray and they fall. Fortunately God is always willing to pick us up and walk with us, but many of us are so comfortable by our blinding distractions that we have no clue that we aren't moving anywhere. One simple way you can tell whether you’re focused on God: What fruit are you producing? Godly fruit comes from a focus on him, really examine your heart and then open it to God; he knows what to do and where to take you. Trust him and focus on him for your WHOLE life.

Even though humans aren't perfect we serve a perfect God who is able to guide us through this life full of distraction. All of us have the ability to focus so choose to focus on God and not on anything else; He’ll give you the momentum you need to move forward.




What's stealing your momentum? Do you have blinders on? Did you ever think it was a good thing to have blinders on?


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Words...Again

I don't understand how a husband could murder his wife and then kill himself - that's just the wimp's way out. If you want to kill anyone, kill yourself (that's just the anger talking, please don't kill yourself, either).

If you love someone, how can you murder them? That's not love at all.

As I sit here this morning, processing the death of a classmate, my husband is telling me how a friend of ours knew her well. They were like brother and sister and she had a zest for life.

My thoughts go a little crazy at this point, so I'll leave most of them unwritten.

Death is awful. Being murdered by someone who claims to love you - I can't imagine.

Her death is not a surprise to God, as it is to us.

I sincerely hope (as I hope for all) that she is in heaven, rejoicing, no longer having to worry and deal with the ills of this world.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3 - 5

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalms 90:12

Condolences.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Trusting God

If you are a parent, you must realize that there are things you have learned that you never would've learned, if you had not become a parent.

A big lesson that I'm constantly learning is trusting God; here's what I mean.

source


Parenting does not come with a manual geared to each child that you have. To a certain degree the Bible can serve as that manual, combined with others that have gone before you. But because your child is unique in temperament and personality, you as parents will have to figure out effective methods. For example you may know that it is foolish to not discipline a child, but as a parent you have to figure out the best method: do you spank, do you talk, do you take a way privileges? Once you have that part figured out, the child grows on you and you realize old methods no longer work and then you try something new.  And then the child is 18 or thereabouts and is now responsible for himself and you hope against hope that all the things you've said and done over the years stuck.

And this is where big time worry can kick in - if you let it.
But you have another choice - you can trust God. Yes, trust God.

I am going through a variant of this right now and these children are teaching me to lean on God more than ever before. My husband and I have spent a lot of time in conversation and praying together over our children. Children will do that to you - make you do something that you should have been doing all along, but had neglected. We never need to worry. To trust means to have child like faith, as in the image above; to let go of everything I think I know and simply trust.

As I meditate on the verses below, worry dissipates and trust is strengthened.

Psalm 18:2 - “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
Psalm 91:2 - “I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”
Nahum 1:7 - “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. ”
Proverbs 30:5 - “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
Isaiah 26:3 - “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Psalm 118:8 - “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”
Proverbs 3:5 - “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
How do your children teach you to trust in God?




Saturday, January 26, 2013

The List

Blogging is fun because it's writing, which is a childhood dream of mine.  Through blogging, I've learned a lot about others and myself.  Looking back at some of posts, I see growth, anguish, maturity - to name a few.
I saw this list on a blog I read, and my first thought after reading her list was, I could never do something like that, because I have an invisible fence in my brain around the things I'll share. Blogging has also made me realize that the hardest posts to write are those that benefit the most.  This isn't very deep in terms of content, but it's another way that you get to know another part of me.

I am: exuberant and still look good for my age; a wife and mother of 4
I think:  about too many things that don't make sense to most people
I want: a new house with granite counters and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen
I have:  alot of stuff; i buy clothes on sale that I have yet to wear; no patience for foolishness
I dislike: mess, clutter, confusion, angry people
I miss: being close to my friends; stopping by for a cup of tea; hanging out for no good reason; late night sessions where we talked and talked.
I fear:  being a grumpy old lady; becoming fat.
I feel:  good
I hear:  crickets; and the toilet flushing
I smell:  garbage and dirty dishes
I crave: sour cream and onion potato chips especially when I'm hormonal
I search: for my husband's wallet and keys way too often
I wonder:  what would happen to me if my husband died; what each child will become
I regret:  not too much, but I surely wish I'd taken advantage of SAP training many years ago
I love: Love
I care:  for my family - my husband and my children and then my extended family
I am always: looking for something to do
I worry:  about growing old, my children
I remember: growing up in the Bahamas - the food, the beaches, our house and neighbors
I sing:  Loudly, often, in public or private
I argue:  when i feel strongly about something or if I know I'm right
I write: because its cathartic; everything down so I don't forget
I lose:  my mind when I'm wrapped up in a song; I can listen to it on repeat for hours on end
I wish:  this life would be over and I could start living in heaven
I listen:  to all sorts of music
I don't understand:  why a child who is raised with a Godly foundation would squander that; how two children could be raised in the same loving environment and one thrives and the other is angry
I can usually be found: at home or in my car
I am scared:  of dogs, and rodents (especially if they get in my house)
I need: to do laundry...uggh
I forget:  not much; though sometimes in conversation the thought I was going to express all of a sudden slips my mind.
I am happy:  .when we snuddle - that's snuggling and cuddling; when I'm being hugged; having stimulating conversation

So Kris, thanks for encouraging me to do this.
Now it's your turn. Make your own list and let me know so I can come read yours. And remember, don't spend too much time thinking about it. Usually what first comes to mind is what you need to write. Don't worry about sounding goofy, or unspiritual, or whatever. . .we are all a work in progress.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Notes From My Daughter

I'm starting a new series called - Notes From My Daughter.  This daughter is 19 years old with a heart that desires to serve God. We've had great conversations around her spiritual growth and the evidence of it in her life. She wanted to start sharing some of her thoughts via a blog, but she has not done so as yet. She thought my blog would be a great starting point. So without further introduction, here is her first note.


What You Want vs. What God Wants (Spoiler: in this battle, God wins)

The phrase “Obedience is better than sacrifice” is extracted from a conversation between Saul and Samuel in 1 Samuel 15. In this chapter Saul, the appointed king of the Israelites  disobeys God but finds his actions to be justified because he “technically” performed the task God asked him to do. God asked Saul to destroy Amalek (a city that ambushed the Israelites), and Saul did almost that. Saul chose to keep the King of Amalek alive, the animals alive, and kept “all that was good” (verse 9). Samuel, the priest of Israel, is instructed to confront Saul about how the Lord now rejects Saul as king because of his actions. There are 3 basic things that I took away from this chapter that we can all learn from:


1. Excuses 

Saul’s reasoning for disobeying God is found in verse 24 where Saul states “I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.” When I first read this chapter I overlooked this verse but now it stands out to me because I relate to Saul’s logic. Sometimes God’s instructions get overshadowed by popular opinion, and it’s not because He wasn't clear in His instructions but that we took our eyes off of Him and put our focus on other human beings. We as humans are swayed at the thought of pleasing other humans instead of LISTENING to what God has to say. It’s natural, but it’s wrong, especially in a leadership position like Saul had. Keep in mind God is not a people pleaser; He see’s beyond the surface of the situation and instructs based on what’s necessary, not what's popular. People are always going to have an opinion but God is the only one who speaks the absolute truth. Stop with the tired excuses.





2. Forgetfulness
The reality is, we are all like Saul. Going back to the beginning of Saul’s story (which starts in 1st Samuel 9) we can see that Saul was initially an “average Joe” who was appointed as King because God chose him for the job. In the beginning of Saul’s reign, Samuel was sure to instill in Saul that he would have to follow God’s will if he wanted to be established (this was the only requirement). However, we all forget the beginning when we are caught up in the now. Humble beginnings are reminders that throughout the whole journey you still NEED to depend on the one who got you started. You cannot do God’s will, without Him. No matter how much you think you have it under control, you need to trust God more than yourself, which leads us to…


3. Pride


Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and shun evil” –Proverbs 3:7
Sometimes/Often the actions that we take are all very logical from our own perspective. We think the way in which we interpret what God says precisely matches what he originally said to us. Honestly if this were the case there would be no need for the Holy Spirit who continually guides and protects us, even from ourselves. We think…..wait for it…….WE KNOW IT ALL, or at least we know enough from our point of view. But don’t let yourself fool yourself. God did not ask Samuel for sacrifice; He asked for obedience. He didn't ask for selectivity, but for total submission. He didn't ask for what you heard, but what he told you. It’s not based on you. The only way to be a leader who “Does not lie or change his mind” based off of what he/she thinks is to consistently go back God because the reality is, you need God.

“Obedience is better than sacrifice” said Samuel to Saul. So how does one start being truly obedient?

Obey his words; read them, meditate on them, bind them around your heart (Proverbs 3) and consistently go back to God as he continues to sanctify you. Do not go off of what the majority says, or even what seems right to you, but seek God in ALL things and be willing to LISTEN. A true leader is a person who is dedicated to following God at all times and directs others based off of God’s will. We start by realizing we need God and putting our full trust in him, we continue by following him, wherever he takes us…obedience is key to your walk with God.

Obedience or sacrifice?

PS - please show some love in the comments; I appreciate all my readers!
PPS - I had such a hard time adding those images.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Friendships

I attended a bridal shower last night for a new friend; as it turns out she happens to be a comedian and she is quite funny naturally.  At this event, I met other women who I had seen in passing but had never had a conversation with them. Invariably, we ended up talking about how we ended up in LA. Many were born and bred in LA never left, and some of us had a long winding road before we got here. It was nice to hear that they were a few island (West Indian) connections also. It always warms my heart to know that there are normal people in LA; I think I fell in to the trap of thinking that everyone here was a transplant or affiliated with the entertainment industry; so every time I meet a regular person I smile and am encouraged.

Moving is hard because once you move you know longer have the easy accessibility of friendships. I am a mother  - so I made friends through my children, through school, through church and from living in one place for a long time.  There was a rhythm to my life that allowed me to connect and establish relationships.

Moving changed that rhythm and unwittingly I hungered for it. I live in the valley and when I first moved here I wanted to be friendly with any person of color I saw, since they were so few of us. So I would say hi to random strangers who were black, exchanged phone numbers, initiate some text conversations and then never hear from them again. Over time I felt like a stalker. I tried Meetup - but the women I met were not my cup of tea. They were all single looking for men on online dating sites and complaining about the shortage of men. And I was happily married for a long time with 4 children - why was I there?  I got tired of reaching out - it felt like what I imagined a first date feels like multiplied by one hundred.

So at some point I accepted my situation; I had friends on other coasts and could call when I need to, but I wanted someone to just have a cup of tea with or do nothing with, just because.

Let me insert at this point - that this may or may not have driven my husband crazy, but he was going through the same thing in a different sort of way. His temperament is different than mine and the need did not appear so critical. Women crave relationship especially of other women - its how I'm wired (can't speak for all).

When the Little One started school, over a period of time I connected with a couple of other moms. We are a diverse group - Vietnamese, Mexican, Filipino, Korean and Black, but we have learned so much from each other in the past years and have a good time whenever we get together. Friendships are growing.

The Little One also did Track, and when I went to the first Track meet my first thought was, "so this is where all the Black people in the valley are." The comedian is a Track mom as were a couple of other moms at the shower. Friendships continue to grow.

When you move, everything takes time; you're never going to have exactly what you left because you are in a different place, with different people. But if you are open, you can establish a new rhythm that's just as rich. It's different, not bad.



A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5,6


How do you make new friends? How are your friendships affected by your moving  - if you've moved? Would you say that when you don't try to make friends, the people you meet surprise you in  a pleasant way leading to friendship?


Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Hills

I live in a valley, that is surrounded on all sides by mountains. So I have a visual reminder every day that those mountains are big, but My God is bigger, because He made the mountains.


San Fernando Valley as seen from Topanga Lookout

I needed this today:


Psalm 121

A song of ascents.


1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.



Where does your help come from?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Iron Sharpens Iron

You've heard it said that iron sharpens iron, but do you know what it means?



First of all, iron does sharpen iron. I remember being in the kitchen (alot of my inspiration occurs in the kitchen at the sink!) and needing a sharp knife to cut a piece of meat. Over time the blade had gotten dull. I remembered this verse and took another knife and rubbed the two blades together.  Voila - the knife went through the meat very smoothly, saving me time and aggravation.

This phrase is often used when it comes to people and relationships - implying that sharp minds will sharpen other minds around them. In order for the sharpening to take place there has to be relationship. In our relationships we may become dull, or just take things or each other for granted. This is where the sharpening becomes necessary.

The rubbing, the friction or the sharpening can be pleasant or unpleasant. The friction appears pleasant when you are brainstorming ideas, and having great discussion. It appears unpleasant when it seems like a personal affront. This range of friction can occur in the same relationships (i.e. with siblings or spouses).  A friend may be the means of exciting another to reflect, dive deeply into, and illustrate a subject. A friend may also be the vehicle by which you are confronted about a personal flaw. What determines the sharpening is how you receive the information. If you use it to become sharper, you are better for it. You will have to exhibit grace, discipline and wisdom as you go through the sharpening.

In relationships the rubbing together, the friction, can be unpleasant, but it doesn't have to be. If there's mutual respect, even though a person may be saying the hard things, your response is up to you. Hopefully you are able to look past what is being said and recognize the why of what is being said.

Our characters aren't molded or changed by themselves. Iron sharpens iron.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Are you being sharpened?  Are you receptive? Do you sharpen others?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Little Forgivenesses

I woke up to a messy kitchen - again.  I didn't mind the mess as much as the fact that food was left uncovered. In this moment I had a choice - forgive and move on, or become angry and critical about it.

source

This time I chose the former - to forgive and move on and as I did this I recognized that within relationships on a regular basis we do things that require forgiveness - often. We say something that seems trivial, we ignore, we forget what was said earlier - somehow we irritate each other. We're not always kind to each other as we should be.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

Kindness and forgiveness go hand in hand. People will offend, choose to forgive. Don't hold it in until you reach the point of warped thoughts such as, I can forgive, but I won't forget - what's the point? And have you really forgiven?

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Start small; forgive incrementally.

Do you forgive often?


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Living Right

"In all the years I've worked with people, I've yet to meet someone whose life was all messed up because he or she kept God's commands ."(Joe Stowell)

This quote really struck me because of its truthfulness. Many people want lives that reap the result of God's commands, but they don't want to believe or follow God's commands. So we are in a free for all - everyone doing what they want and hoping that they come out fine. Sometimes people look for the easy way out and rationalize, that if it's not clearly stated in the Bible, then it can be done.

source

Psalms 1 covers many situations relevant to our world  - let's take a look:


1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
So the real question is - who are the wicked? The simple answer, those who don't follow God
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
Your beliefs determine your actions; no point in having beliefs if you do nothing with them. If you love God and believe what He says, you will search the Bible for truths for living.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
I  like to garden - a well watered tree or plant thrives; they have deep roots and are stable; it takes alot for them to cave. When you are like a well watered plant in God's word, the troubles of life draw you closer to your Source; you handle problems different from others; you have a confidence that is not braggadocio, but is peaceful and sure; others want what you have.
4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Because this person is not content, they jump on every bandwagon or every fad that may lead to happiness - they may buy more things, try illegal substances, drink more, indulge in fleshy pastimes - and reap the consequences of all of these actions. They may have an over-inflated sense of self and believe that they are entitled to the good life. For them, life is about the next experience, the next high.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
There is nothing to judge; their actions have doomed them to the place of the wicked.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
The Lord preserves and the wicked destroy themselves.

Use the rubric of God's word to live right - no one has ever been sorry who has done so.

Righteous or wicked - which are you?




Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Year of MORE - Recap


Last year I chose MORE as my one word for the year.

When I chose this word, I had spiritual intentions. I sincerely wanted MORE of God and I thought it would manifest itself in tangible blessings in my life that I could quantify - i.e. more things, nicer job, more blog followers, etc

Instead what happened was God chose to use many circumstances not of my choosing to draw me closer to Him, and so I reaped intangible blessings, the biggest being I learned to trust and rely on God MORE. MORE became synonymous for TRUST.

I thank God for all of it, for I've learned that in trusting it is easier to experience peace in spite of what we are going through. I've learned that God uses relationships - particularly marriage and parenting to mold you in to his character. I've learned that when things seem hopeless, with God we can always hope.

This year, I want to remain OPEN to whatever God will do in my life. I know that He doesn't think like me, so when things come along, I will attempt to view from a heavenly perspective and walk with him through it hand in hand.

I have no words for the new year, just an attitude - OPEN.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20 - 21
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord.“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

What are your thoughts as you head in to the new year?