A Time to Focus on Family

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“‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’” Mark 5:19

Remember the biblical account of Jesus healing a man who was possessed by a legion of demons? No one had been able to subdue this man, no one had been able to help him. Until Jesus. Jesus cast the demons out and restored this desperate man to his right mind.

How grateful he must have been. In fact as Jesus was leaving, this newly healed man begged Jesus to let him go with him . The man’s reason for wanting to accompany Jesus may have been an overflow of gratitude, a desire to be part of Jesus’s powerful life-changing ministry, fear that he had nowhere to go since he had destroyed all his relationships with his family and friends, or possibly a combination of these reasons. Whatever the reason, Jesus had another plan for him.

Instead of saying yes to the man’s request to go with him, Jesus told him to go home. He wanted him to tell his family how much he had done for him. To tell them about the mercy he had shown him.

We don’t know all of Jesus’s reasons for asking the man to go home. The Lord certainly wanted the man’s family to hear this amazing testimony of Jesus’s love and power. We know Jesus wanted more people to come to know him. But maybe he also knew the man’s family ached for news of him or that the man himself needed to be reassured of their love. Maybe he knew this family’s reunion was what was most important for that group of people at that moment in time.

Whatever his reasons, Jesus wanted this man to focus on his family. And there are times I’m sure that his plan and task for us is the same. We may have a desire to go somewhere or do something big for the Lord or we might just wish we had a more exciting role in life and in God’s kingdom, but sometimes in some seasons God shows us our main ministry is at home. Our main ministry is to be focused on our family.

The Lord has called me to such seasons at times. Whether staying home to raise our girls or serving in caregiving roles for loved ones with health problems or giving my time to help with our twin grandsons this past year, I’ve seen that at times serving my family is indeed a major part of my role in life and in ministry for the Lord. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t be involved in other activities, but I did have to say no to many things in order to fulfill the ministries to family that God placed before me.

I wonder if today the Lord is leading any of us to focus on our families? Is his plan for us to “go home” for now? If it is, let’s accept it as from him and go joyfully and in peace. Let’s shine for the Lord at home.

“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” 1 Timothy 5:4

*When has God called you to a season at home?

*Don’t miss out on the One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway. Deadline to enter is Feb. 10th!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out early last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Ryan Smith Photography, Creative Commons License

Messages from the Dark

4279216_68f6e38afe*Today I’m featuring an encore post from February 2009. Hope it blesses you!

Any other perpetual calendar lovers out there? I admit to having three scattered throughout my house right now. Guess you could say I’m hooked on them. I look forward to the fresh inspiration they offer me each day — and to finding quotes I can use on the blog!

One morning last week, one of the calendar quotes really resonated with me. A couple of hours later, my scripture reading for the day held a verse that conveyed nearly the same message. I knew right away it must be a message worth sharing. Some of us may need it more than others right now, but I feel certain we can all learn from it.

My Whispered Words of Encouragement perpetual calendar contained these encouraging words from Oswald Chambers, early 20th century author and Christian minister: “When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.”

Some of my recent days weathering the ongoing crisis with my mother-in-law’s health have been awfully close to “dark” — but could probably be described more accurately as very difficult.

Still, I identified with the message in a special way. I knew the Lord would use these difficult days to allow me to help someone in the future.

Later that morning, I read a verse from God’s Word that echoed what I’d read from Chambers. Jesus told his disciples, “‘What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.’” (Matthew 10:27) Jesus had been telling his disciples about the persecution they would encounter as they ministered in His name, but I think we can apply the teaching to any dark time we may find ourselves in. The Lord will teach us things — will give us precious messages — that He will one day give us opportunities to share with others.

Just this morning, I jotted a few practical things down I’ve been learning over the past several weeks. As dark storm clouds roll across our lives, let’s listen for God’s messages, whether they are practical ideas or spiritual truths and comforts. Let’s ready ourselves to “proclaim from the roofs” the things God has taught us. We may proclaim them to a crowd or to just an audience of one hurting person. Wherever we proclaim them, let’s allow our messages from the dark to bring light to another.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

*What have you learned in the dark that might help someone today?

*Don’t forget to enter the Steaming Hot Valentine’s Day Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. Feb. 11.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out this week. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by boboroshi, Creative Commons License

What We Can Do When Grief Is Compounded

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We’ve all been there—smack dab in the middle of a conversation or situation that compounds a heavy grief we’re bearing.

Remarks are made that drive a knife deeper into an open wound. People may offer trite words or pat answers that may, in fact, be true, but do nothing but make the pain sharper because of their lack of understanding. Some may even make comments with an edge—with an implication of how we should get over the situation or fix it or how we possibly could have prevented it to start with. The knife goes in deeper.

Other times, actions are taken—or not taken—that show a lack of sensitivity and understanding. After asking how we’re doing, someone glances at his watch repeatedly as we try to share our stories. Another knife in the heart. Sometimes our heartache is ignored—we are ignored—when people, unsure of what to say or do, carry on as if nothing is wrong. In the process, these unwitting but guilty parties compound our grief as well.

So what can we do when our grief is compounded, when the pain is made worse? How can we turn it into something positive? A few things come to mind:

  1. We can give grace. We can forgive. Chances are, the offender doesn’t even realize the pain his remarks or actions caused. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and overlook the offense. And if the person should have known better, we can still forgive. We can remember how God has forgiven us time and again and offer the same mercy ourselves.
  1. We can learn from the situation. Any time and every time our grief is compounded, we can make a mental note to avoid such remarks or actions in our own dealings with those who are hurting. We can guard against compounding others’ grief in the future.
  1. We can educate and enlighten others. We can share the lessons we’ve learned during our season of grief as opportunities arise. Depending on the situation and the people involved, it might even be appropriate and helpful to let an offender know how his actions or words caused hurt.
  1. We can draw closer to God as we handle the hurt. We can go to God with every fresh heartache. We can tell him all about it. In his arms we’ll find comfort and understanding. We can see the hurtful situation as one more opportunity to go deeper in our relationship with God.

Grief compounded doesn’t have to win, doesn’t have to have the final say. God can help us even through this. God can redeem the pain-made-worse. Let’s allow him to do so.

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 KJV

*What are some ways we can avoid compounding the grief of others?

 *Flickr photo by Thomas Leuthard, Creative Commons License

After Fire and Water: The Hope of Abundance

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver . . . we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:10; 12b

I imagine that some of you reading these words today are going through fire and water. God is testing and refining you. And it hurts.

Maybe I don’t hang out with the right people, but I don’t know anyone who enjoys taking tests. Nor do I know anyone who lines up early to be first in line for the refining process.

And going through fire? Well that’s downright scary and packed with potential for pain.

As for water, at first we might think oh yes, I’ll take that one, but consider the resistance we face when we have to walk through knee-high, waist-high, or—heaven forbid—neck-high water even when it’s calm. Add huge waves or dangerous current, and going through water imparts its own brand of scary.

The experiences that refine us—the fire and water—many times are marathon trials. Endurance tests. When caring for Don’s mother during the last several years of her life, at times the demands of hospital duty threatened to engulf me. I’ve also shared in the ongoing pain of our daughter and son-in-law as they’ve waited for years to have a child. No, refining isn’t easy.

Thank goodness the word “but” comes after the mention of tests and refining and fire and water in the scripture above. Thank goodness God doesn’t leave us struggling through endurance tests forever. Instead, he brings us to “a place of abundance.” A place of great blessing.

So take heart, my friends. If you’re going through the refiner’s fire right now, your place of abundance may be just around the bend. Great blessing is surely on the way.

“I am the LORD your God . . . Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10

*How has God blessed you with abundance after a time of trial?

*Flickr photo by Eddie van W.

Feeding the Young

Remember last week when I fessed up to having gone slightly bird crazy this year? Well not only have I been noticing their different songs, but I’ve spotted a few hard at work feeding their young as well.

When we visited my parents over Memorial Weekend, I got to observe a particular bird’s parenting skills over and over. Mom and Dad have a couple of birdhouses on their property, and bluebirds have built a nest in one. I had hoped to share a picture of the daddy bird’s parenting prowess (he was easiest to spot because of his bright blue color), but darn it all, the shot is too blurry to post here on the blog.

This daddy blue bird took his responsibility very seriously. He worked tirelessly to feed his little namesakes. Time and again he’d come flying in from a distance to land atop the bird house and rest a moment before scooting through the little hole to where his young ones waited. Within seconds, he was out again, taking only a minute’s reprieve before he was off scouting more food. He was a dedicated parent.

Have you spotted anyone feeding the young lately? You may be in the midst of feeding the young at your very own house—and I’m not just talking physical sustenance. As parents, we need to feed our children spiritually, too. Even when our kids are grown and gone, we still have opportunities to pour truth into their lives.

Have we in the past or are we currently filling our kids hearts and minds with the Word of God as we “sit at home and when [we] walk along the road” (Deuteronomy 6:6)? Have we exposed them to the spiritual teaching available in our churches?

We can also help nurture and feed other young ones besides those in our own families. Think of all the children in your circle of influence. Consider also the spiritually young, those who have only recently come to faith. They need us who are more mature in the faith to take our responsibility seriously. They need us to work tirelessly to help them grow and become strong in the Lord.

Let’s demonstrate some parenting prowess. Let’s be faithful to feed the young.

“Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Psalm 34:11

*How are you feeding the young in your circle of influence?

*Flickr photo by Sister72

*Did you miss our big news? Read my previous post – “Please Pray – Our Kids Are Pursing Adoption!”