Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You

Although I grew up in a very loving and protective home, as I got older I realized that I had my own thoughts and ideas.  I wanted to be independent and step out from the protection of my mom and dad. I wanted to be independent from God too and make my own choices. Yet I wanted the assurance that my parents and God were waiting if I needed them.

The Lord could have created each of us without freewill but in His wisdom He chose to give us the freedom to choose how we will live our lives.

Just as I challenged my parents, our daughter Christina challenged her dad and me also. I remember she once told me, “Mom, I know you love me and don’t want me to get hurt but I have to learn my own way”. That broke my heart because I knew she did not fully understand the pain she would face in making wrong decisions.

As parents we want to shield and protect our children from harm yet at the same time we want them to grow up and learn to live fruitful and independent lives.

Today, as a young mother, Christina has a little boy of her own who is living up to the reputation of a true two year old. He has begun to realize that he is an independent soul and has the ability to make his own decisions. He teeters between the two most common words of a two year old, “Mommy” and “No”. In one moment he is aware of his need for his “Mommy” and in the next he is trying out his independent nature with his newfound love of the word, “No”.

We would all like to think that we have reached a place of maturity where we only make wise decisions. But just like my two-year-old grandson, we try our independence.  We seem to shout; “No” until we are afraid or hurt then we look for safety again.  Just as he cries, “Mommy” we also cry out asking the Lord to help us.

Over and over the Lord has been very patient and merciful with me and I thank Him for being a shield around about me. "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”. Proverbs 30:5 NIV

There comes a time when we expect our children to grow up; our Heavenly Father desires that for us too. He is our protector and our shield but He is also our Heavenly Father. “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:10,11 NIV

Some of our parents told us as they disciplined us, “ This hurts me more than it hurts you”. As a child we thought, “Yeah, right”. But then when we had children of our own we began to understand. Some of us have even said the same thing to our children. We see the danger and love them enough to intervene.

Our Heavenly Father is grieved when we exert our freewill and make choices in our lives that pull us away from His protection and the purpose for which He created us. In His great love He will allow us to wander but eventually in His loving kindness He will intervene in our lives. If we listen, we could possibly hear our Heavenly Father saying, “This hurts Me more than it hurts you”.

When the loving Hand of God reaches down to touch us, we can resist or we can realize that His wisdom is far greater than our own. He knows that our enemy has come to destroy our lives but He loves us enough to step in and interrupt our lives.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. John 10:10 NASB

We do live in an imperfect world but our Heavenly Father has not left us alone to face our enemy or walk blindly through this life without His help. He has left His Word the Bible  “Thy Word is Lamp unto my feet and Light unto my path” Psalm 119: 105 KJV. As we spend time reading His Word He will teach us and guide us.

If we want to be able to cry out “Abba Father” in times of trouble we must be willing to follow His plan and His Word with all our heart. We can’t change our own heart but He can change our hearts. Many people say, “Follow your own heart” but that is not what God’s Word tells us. He tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5,6 NLT.

When the Lord in His loving kindness begins to discipline us we can resist or we can recognize that it is the strong arm of the Lord intervening in our lives for our own good.

Ginger O'Neill

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Shield and Protection

One thing I could count on growing up in my home, as a child was a sense of security. Even as a very small child I knew that my dad was my protector.

I recall walking down the street with him and being very aware and confident that Daddy was watching out for my safety. He was observant of every person we passed and exuded the message with his body to passers-by, “ don’t mess with her, she’s mine”.  He was vigilant in observing everything surrounding us. His keen sense of sight, hearing and smell were always on high alert, it seemed that nothing missed his notice.

Never once in my life did I have to worry when I went to sleep if the doors were locked or our home was secure. Daddy was my protector and I knew that he would make sure we slept securely and safely.

He ran interference blocking every intrusion that could possibly bring harm to not only me but also to my mom and two sisters. One memory that stands out to me was sitting at the dining room table enjoying Sunday lunch after church. As we sat there eating, talking, and enjoying our time together the conversation shifted to a young man in town who had already graduated from high school. With three teenager daughters now in his house Daddy was ever mindful of young men who had wrong intentions. This young man was definitely the type. So as we talked over our family lunch, Daddy told us in no uncertain terms, “ Yes, and he will never come to our house”. We knew Daddy well enough to know he had already taken action before it became a problem. With the fear of what Daddy had done we all quickly asked, “ Why? What have you done?” His answer was short, simple and to the point, “I told him that he better not ever show up at our door”. We were so embarrassed as young girls get at that age. We all cried out, “ But Daddy, he’s never even called here” and Daddy replied, “Yes, and he won’t either”.  Years later as I recall that memory I feel so loved by my Dad and find so much comfort in knowing that he loved me enough to protect me.

Was he able to block all harm that came my way? No, he gave me a safe home to grow up in and was vigilant as a father to watch out for my safety and protect me as best he could. To which I will always be grateful.

I was fortunate to have a dad who watched out for my safety.  Many children do not grow up with a sense of security and safety. However, none of us grows up free from all harm and pain. God’s Word makes it very clear.  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour”. I Peter 5:8 NLT.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. John 10:10 NASB

My dad had learned through his own life experiences that we live in imperfect world. He wanted to shield me from all pain. As parents we all want to shield our children from pain.

This is such a perfect picture of our loving Heavenly Father. There have been times when I stepped out from the covering of the Lord’s protection in disobedience or through foolish decisions. But in the Lord’s loving kindness, patience and mercy He has covered, protected and been a shield around about me. "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”. Proverbs 30:5 NIV I can almost hear my Heavenly Father saying, "Don't mess with her, she is mine".

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stop Complaining and Start Living

Recently I was trying to encourage my friend and found myself writing what should have been taken as rude although it was sent with love. I told her in my cold email, “Stop complaining and start living”.

I had listened as she poured her heart out to me about her new life.  I couldn’t believe that she thought she had problems. She and her husband had recently moved when he started a new job. The move had been a financial blessing to them and her once struggling marriage was greatly improved. She had time and freedom to pursue some of her own dreams and goals in ministry. As she shared about being bored with too much time on her hands, I couldn’t believe she was miserable with her new freedom. I thought, “Girl, what are you complaining about? Can’t you see this is a blessing? You now have time to pursue your dreams?” Before I knew it, I was opening my mouth to give unsolicited advice. Then just to make the point I followed up in an email, “Stop complaining and start living.”

Although I was wrong, my heart truly was in the right place toward her. I had listened for years as she had expressed her desire for more time and freedom to pursue her dreams and now she had it. I was just wrong to give her my unsolicited thoughts so bluntly.

A couple of weeks later she called me, which is amazing and told me that my words had really spoken to her. To be honest, I didn’t recall what I had said to her until she reminded me. I listened as she repeated them back to me and realized these were the same words that the Lord had been speaking to my heart.

Perhaps it was His will for me to share with my friend too. Perhaps it was not, but when she repeated those same words back to me, I was suddenly very aware that I had been ignoring the still quiet voice of God as He had whispered to me, “Stop complaining and start living”.

When you are an imperfect perfectionist like me, it is so easy to make excuses. But in His love and patience, God is showing me how to “stop complaining and start living”

1. Give praise to the Lord with a grateful heart. Tell Him how much you appreciate Him and the good things in your life. Be very specific like the old hymn, “Count your many blessings; name them one by one”.

2. Give praise to others in your life. Tell them how much you appreciate and value them. At first specific praise can seem phony when you are out of practice but with lots of practice you will begin to get more comfortable.

3. Guard your thoughts. Every word spoken and every action we choose first started in our mind. Avoid negative conversation and choose to spend time with people who build others up rather than tear others down. This may mean walking away when friends, family or coworkers are complaining or gossiping. It may also mean turning off the television.

4. Learn to forgive. Jesus paid the price for each of our sin. If the Lord can forgive you and me then we should chose to forgive our selves and others when we fail. Holding on to un-forgiveness will only hinder us in living our life pleasing to the Lord and also ourselves.

5. Feed your soul. Spend time daily in prayer alone with the Lord and reading the Bible. Begin to read books that inspire and motivate you to live with passion and purpose. Listen to the testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the lives of others. Listen to stories that encourage and motivate.

6. Take time each day to do something that brings you personal fulfillment. If you are limited in your time, start small and make gains in a big way one step at a time through consistently running the race in the direction to reach your goals.

7. Take time to play and enjoy life. Let the fun begin. Learn to laugh again if you have lost laughter. Spend time listening to children laugh on a playground. Let the silly out and don’t always be so serious.

8. Take care of your physical body. As we exercise, eat right, drink plenty of water and get rest we will have the energy to live the life we are called to live. Remember, our body is the temple of God. Stop criticizing the handiwork of the Lord. The Master Designer thinks you are awesome.

It is in the balance of life that we can reach our dreams and still have time to smell the roses along the way.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wisdom of the Ages

Recently I was blessed to spend an afternoon with my mom, two aunts and one of my uncles. This opportunity reminded me how incredible it is to spend time with them and hopefully learn from their wisdom. I realized how much love and respect they deserve and how fortunate I am to have them in my life.

I’ve heard that if you were a mean young person you will just grow up to be a mean old person. But if you were a sweet and kind young person then you will grow up to be a sweet and kind old person. I am so thankful and blessed that my family is the later.
It seems that society is deteriorating and so many people are impatient, unkind and inconsiderate of others. Yet, when I spend time with my elderly family, I am challenged to be more like them.

One thing I’ve observed is they have their priorities in order. They live their lives committed to God first, family second, and other relationships third. Other things such as career, ambitions, entertainment and the pursuit of wealth are secondary to their personal relationships with God and others.

As they have lived out their lives in love and obedience to the Lord they have walked a life worthy of praise and admiration. The purity in their lives is evident. They speak with respect, kindness and love. Their words edify, affirm, and build others up. Their words remind me of the Bible verse  “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” Proverbs 25:11.

They how shown me how important it is to keep my priorities in order. They value their family relationships and encourage the young people to love one another and stay connected. They take interest and encourage each of their siblings, children, and extended family members. What joy it brings me to know that they each value me and are truly interested in my life.

They pour their love into the lives of others. When people are hurting they are there to help, encourage, serve and even grieve with them. They are also there to rejoice and celebrate with their family and friends during times of great joy.  Often their love has been poured out on others and me around the table. My southern family could put Paula Dean or for that matter any cook out of business if they so desired.

In today’s fast faced paced world, my generation and the generations following are much more self -centered than what I observe in my elders. As I listen to them and watch their lives I can see that my elders have faced many of the same life challenges and struggles that are so common to each of us. Yet, I observe that they are much more forgiving, generous, and patient with others.

I first find myself thinking it is wisdom that comes with age. But does a person’s character change with age? I think not. I don’t think that a person will just wake up one day and be a much more loving, forgiving and caring individual. It’s not the maturing brought about by age, but rather it is the maturing brought on by the power of God in their lives.

Perhaps that is the difference. My elders have experienced many challenges, heartaches, and joys and through each of these life experiences they have determined to follow after the Lord no matter the cost.

So often the younger generation dismisses the challenges that the elderly have faced because they make it look so easy. But to the contrary, it is never easy to loose a love one whether it is a sibling, parent, spouse or child. It is never easy to struggle financially. It is never easy when someone you believed in betrays a trust.

I find myself asking, “Will I forgive others as readily as my mother? Will I give to others and go without like my aunt has? Will I trust the Lord when life seems unfair?” To answer my question is to follow the example my elders have modeled for me. The answer to such wisdom is not with age but in a decision to follow the Lord no matter the cost.

The reward will be a life of peace and a life spent pleasing to the Lord. To be a woman such as the woman in Proverbs 31: 28, “ Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her”. I aspire to be that woman. I do see that woman in my own mother and it is my desire to be that woman too.

I desire to be a woman after the Lord’s heart. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30.

In the end I want to hear the Lord God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.