Thursday, May 26, 2011

Build A Hedge

Key Verse: "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" ---Job 1:10

When I was twelve years old, my family moved into my Dad's childhood home. It is a simple farmhouse built with pride over 100 years and has been our family homestead for three generations. And since one wall of the house directly faces the north, our home was sometimes drafty mid-winter. While we didn't mind snuggling up under a warm, fuzzy blanket on a cold winter night, my Dad had the wisdom to build a hedge of pine trees that would grow quickly to shelter our home from the draft.

Today, those trees effectively block the cold of winter, while also serving as a perfect place for my children, neices and nephew to play tag and hide-and-seek. Standing tall, they reach proudly to the sky and give our house a feeling of warmth on the coldest Iowa night.

Friendships are like a hedge in our lives. With love, friends stand with us and protect us from the harsh days of life that sometimes cause our hearts to grow cold. When storms rage around us and the winds of change threaten our security, our friendships act as a shield that blocks the penetrating chill of the world. As we walk through life, we grow and change.

Likewise, our friendships often change as well. Godly friendships are vital in strengthening our walk with the LORD. And so we must carefully choose our friendships in order to build a sustainable hedge. After all, scripture reminds us that "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24 NIV) The number of friends is insignificant to the quality of the bond.

Lasting friendship grows deep through life's challenges and is rooted in God's love. With trust and accountablity these relationships help us to establish Godly priorities as we look to grow in Him together. Such friendships are to be treasured, nurtured, and protected. Despite distance or time, these relationships grow. They protect. They shelter. They endure. They are "a hedge around me and my household" for which I am humbled and grateful. (Job 1:10)

I am grateful for the women in my life that stand before me and shelter me from life's storms. For me, a few Godly women who love me at my best and my worst serve as a hedge of truth, accountability and shared priorities in my life. Truly, they are blessings to me from God and they help me grow in my relationship with Christ and encourage me to be my best for Him.

While some of these women are not geographically near, they are loyal and true. Thankfully, we remain spiritually close, despite the miles that separate us in this world. To these women, I say "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " (1 Samuel 20:42) And I imagine a day when we shall greet each other and fellowship for eternity in Heaven.

In the winters of my life, my friendships have been a source of support and comfort that help me feel secure, accepted, and safe. Truly, I offer praise for each one of the dear women I call "my friend" and I appreciate the honesty and strength they bring into my life. They are my friends. I know who they are...and they are my hedge.

Dear God,
I praise you for the gift of friendship. I thank you for the relationships that were temporary but have helped me to grow and learn in a season since past. And I give you thanks for those friendships that endure the challenges of life and grow stronger each passing year. May your hand guide me as I choose my friendships wisely. Let the words shared between me and my friends be sweet as we bring you honor in our conversations. May our actions be like the hands of our Savior reaching into the lives of one another. Thank you God, for my sisters in Christ.

Reflection: How strong is your hedge of friendship? Could it be time to trim your hedge?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Narrow Path

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this path lately.  Narrow is the gate AND the way.  Narrow doesn’t really sound fun to me.  Wide…and with lots of other people…sounds much more…well…easy.  But, the path that leads to LIFE is narrow.  And I want to walk THAT path.
This weekend I took both kids to a park near Scottish Rite to celebrate the hospital’s 90th birthday.  There were animals and crafts, but what caught my eye was this path.

I couldn’t help but want to walk over to it.  And I thought of this verse in Matthew 7.  The path was BEAUTIFUL, but it was narrow.  And it wasn’t really EASY to walk (compared to the big road that was paved next to it), but it was so much more enjoyable.  You see, what I am learning is that in order for me to find joy in something, it doesn’t have to be easy.  In fact, what makes it joy is finding the good stuff in the hard times.  Seeing blessings and living in thanksgiving, even though life isn’t perfect and knowing that there will be really hard times.  Here lately, I have to be thankful for that.
As I think more and more about it…I can’t stop thinking that God wants me to walk the narrow path so I can rely on Him to get me through it.  If I go the easy route, I may confuse myself and think that I can do it on my own – and that doesn’t allow for any growth nor does it allow me to connect with Him.  God likes growth, doesn’t He?  And if I am growing in Him, then I am where He wants me to be.  Which is also where I want to be.
As I took pictures of the kids (cause I couldn’t let the pretty setting go by without doing that!), I had to think for a moment of the blessings that come as a result of walking the path the Lord puts me on with Him. 

Pretty amazing, huh?  And what’s even better is that if I get off the beaten path a little bit, He is mighty to save and get me back on track – AND He makes good of all things. 
At the top of the path was this…

Don’t we serve a mighty God???  It is like the reward is this beautiful place where I can sit with Him.  Such a great reminder (amongst a big crowd and lots of noise) of the stillness and peace of our mighty Savior.  He is worthy of our praise!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beans and Rice

*This post was actually written back in 2008 for my personal blog, but I rediscovered it recently, and the truth presented is just as true today as it was in 2008. I hope you'll still take the time to read it. (As a frame of reference my children were both under 5 at the time this was written.)

Last night our church had a Third World Banquet. For $1/family, we could come and take part in this experience. I knew going in that the food was not going to be what we would normally eat, and I even let my kids eat some food before we went because I knew they probably wouldn't like whatever we were having. As some of you know, I am a fairly picky eater, so I was prepared to eat a few bites and then go hungry for a few hours. After all, it would only be for a few hours. A simulation is just that--not completely real. I mean, we have plenty of food at home, so a Third World Banquet serves as a good reminder, but it is of course not entirely realistic. This was my attitude going in: I've got this figured out. I know you're not really going to feed me much, and the water will probably not taste very good, but I can make it because it's only one meal.

What I wasn't prepared for was the fact that not everyone in the room would be given the same food. We were part of the group who received rice, beans, and dirty water (they added some tea to it to discolor it), but there were people in the room who got to eat at tables (we had no table in our area) and who got to eat meat, drink clean water, and basically enjoy a regular meal. One table even got dessert with their meal. And you know, this was the part that really struck me: We were all in the same room, all deserving of the same meal, but we didn't all get the same meal. This happens every day. Sweet children are starving while my two are given as much as they desire. I got to come home and eat a late meal last night while people elsewhere were dying of hunger. So though my experience last night was temporary, it did remind me of the reality going on all around, even here in America. And it compelled me to continue to do something about it--by sponsoring children with World Vision and Compassion; by telling others to do the same; by giving money to the church and other organizations; by clicking on Free Rice more often; by making a difference in whatever way the Lord leads.

Lord, help us to not take for granted all the blessings we've been given, and show us how to help those who are hungry, those who are hurting, those who need You.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Outdated Ipod

So I find myself relating to the outdated versions of the iPod. Do you know which versions I’m referring to? You know…the ones with the click wheel. The versions we were formerly soooooo excited about and waited to see released at Best Buy or Walmart. The versions that were on our Christmas lists every other Christmas because Apple is smart enough to update their technology in far enough increments to keep us interested but also as not to be too frequent to cause us to become apathetic.
But anyway, I relate to those outdated Ipods, poor things. Most days I wake up feeling outdated, worn out, barely able to keep up, overlooked, and needing a good battery charge even though I just got one less than twelve hours ago. And the downloadable “updates” I find that are suppose to help fall far short: think positively, work out regularly, develop a hobby, read a book, go on vacation, etc… Some of these things help for a short time but then just leave me needing another boost of something or other later. The updates don’t keep me going forever.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. (I didn’t invent that.) And when desperate, there is one thing which is constant, never dries up or runs out, and I’ll never find it with a price tag at a garage sale. It is too precious, too necessary, too relevant and useful to be considered outdated, irrelevant, stale, weak.
The Word of God. The Holy Bible. Scripture. It revitalizes. God uses it to ignite change. Even when I read the same text I’ve read 25 times before, there is something new and vibrant that He shows me. He uses it to shine a bright spotlight into the dark corners of my life I like to pretend do not exist. It’s painful and awesome all at the same time!
And when I wake up feeling like that outdated iPod, it is a link I have to a God who tells me I am able to be used for great things. Those words remind me even when I feel like there’s at least a hundred better and more recent versions out there for me to compete with and out-perform, that I am created exactly in His image and exactly the way He intended.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:12]

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Only Water

These past couple of weeks have been really tough for our family, as we lost someone very dear to us. The Lord is carrying us through, with the prayers of friends & family, and many other ways. Earlier this week, I downloaded the latest album by Brandon Heath, and it has been so very comforting and uplifting to me.

I wanted to share a song that has especially touched my heart. It's called "Only Water". My prayer is that it will bring peace & comfort to someone else out there, as well.

"Only Water" by Brandon Heath

There's a shadow coming
As the sky goes black
It's a stubborn rain
On a Nebraska plain

There's a farmer standing
On a thirsty ground
He holds his breath
This is life or death
It's only water

And it washes over me
Like a single river stone
Changes everything
But has no power on its own
It's only water

There's a winding canyon
Where a mountain stood
Miles of earth and clay
Carried far away

But there's something holy
In these cathedral walls
They took a lot of years
And a lot of tears
It's only water

And it washes over me
Like a single river stone
Changes everything
But has no power on its own
It's only water

There once was a wedding
All the wine was gone
They said He's just a man
That's where it all began
It was only water

And it washes over me
Like a single river stone
Changes everything
But has no power on its own

It washes over me
Like a single river stone
Changes everything
But has no power on its own, on its own
It's only water

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:38

Monday, May 9, 2011


I grew up in a family of boys--Mom and I were the sole estrogen-producers in the house. That sort of dynamic was great for developing my sense of competition, a love for sports, and a strong throwing arm (seriously, I can still throw a football better than some guys). But not having a sister became a stumbling block for my relationships with other girls. What was this sister thing all about?

During my college years, one friend in particular helped me break through that barrier. Erin had two younger sisters of her own, so she had been living in the hood--the sisterhood--all her life. And after spending three years living with her family (after college, while I was in seminary), my initiation into the sisterhood was complete. And I'm here to tell you, it's nothing like the brotherhood.

Women draw strength from other women in a unique way, I think. Shared experiences, similar tastes, and common physiology all serve as bonding elements that guys, by virtue of their Y-chromosome, just aren't able to join. We love the guys, but some things they just don't understand (right??). A healthy sister relationship, whether by blood or by heart, will encourage and inspire and commiserate and support and rejoice and mourn...sisters need each other. Those of us without biological sisters must reach out to our girlfriends to find a "kindred spirit" in the tradition of Diana and Anne (of Green Gables fame).

Not every sisterhood is a safe place. Rachel and Leah allowed their difficult marriages (to the same man!) destroy their relationship. They set their children against each other, stoking jealousies and hatred that affected the history of their family for generations. Many women struggle to overcome hard feelings and competition with their sisters. They've been hurt, betrayed, abandoned...trusting is hard to do. If you have been or are in that situation, know that there is hope. Jesus makes all things new.

On the plus side, consider Mary and Martha. They had different personalities that caused the occasional conflict--and who doesn't?--but they were united in their devotion to each other, their brother Lazarus, and their Lord Jesus. Nothing in Scripture indicates that theirs was anything but a safe relationship.

And don't forget Mary and Elizabeth, cousins of different ages--Mary was a teenager, Elizabeth was probably over 40  (considered too old to have children).  God used both of them in two life-stages that their culture would have written off: Mary was too young, Elizabeth was too old. But look what God did with them! And I love how they came together in a beautiful picture of obedience to God's word and faithful care for one another.

The Sisterhood can be a beautiful place. What are you doing to make yours inviting, safe, and honoring to God?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Computer/Technology & Mommy Guilt...How Do These Go Together???

Yesterday morning as I was sitting at my breakfast room table waiting for my little girl to finish eating her breakfast I did what I do most mornings...I got on my computer.  After I got online and looked at facebook and a blog or two or more I decided I was putting my computer up for the day.  I took my laptop and put it in my husbands office.  I was going to have a semi technology free day.  I say semi because I still had my phone.  I will be honest and say I did check FB and my email a few times from my phone.  I do not text much so I did not really have to worry about getting lots of text today since most of my friends know either I prefer to talk on the phone or send emails.

I normally keep my computer on the breakfast room table or the kitchen cabinet and when I walk by I will sometimes check FB or see if any of the blogs I read are updated or read the news.  It is amazing how much of my day is really lost doing this.  I sometimes wish I could figure out how to have more hours in the day, well I think I found out how to do that today.

I was amazed at everything I got done. I cleaned house, got almost caught up on laundry and I ran.  WOW!!!  I have decided I am going to do this several times a week....part of me thinks I might should do this everyday - I could really get alot of my projects done.  While my little girl was eating her lunch I did get it out but then I put it right back up!  I got it back out after we were done with dinner - it was around 7:00PM.

Technology is a good thing.  When my little girl was a new born and we were staying home, my link to the outside world was my computer!  It is the easiest way to catch up on the news if you are like me and are usually busy when the news comes on TV.  I also would keep up with my friends through FB and I would blog so that our families back home could see pictures of our little girl.

Technology can cause me to have Mommy Guilt!  Just like yesterday while I was cleaning my closet I turned on a show for my little girl to watch.  She loved getting to watch it but I felt really guilty that she was watching one of her shows when I should have been playing with her.  But on the flip side, it is a good thing too because I was being productive and she was watching something she likes and was entertained for a short time.  Am I the only person that feels guilty when I let my little one watch one of her shows so that I can get something done?

Technology is a good thing, we just can not let it take over our life.

  • I was thinking how much more time I could spend praying and studying God's word if I just turned my computer off.
  • How much more quality time I could spend with my little girl if I turned my computer off.
  • How much more time could I spend volunteering for things if I turned my computer off.  
  • How much more time could I spend helping a friend in need if I turned my computer off.  

Like I mentioned above, it is amazing how much of your day can be lost on the computer....and you may not even realize it.

What could you do if you turned the computer off?

I am thinking that today may be another computer free day.  Does anyone else want to make this a computer and/or technology free day?