A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want a Peaceful Home?

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Aren’t there days when we would give our children’s birthright for some peace and quiet?

Oh, wait. I remember a story about that with two brothers named Esau and Jacob. Giving up a birthright did NOT end well. Scratch that….

Yet the fact remains – there are days we would give up a whole lot for a little peace and quiet around the house, wouldn’t we?

That is why the following verses jumped out at me. Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

But afterwards there will be a peaceful harvest ! 

What an amazing promise. If we endure the discipline  – we will reap the rewards.

Why do we give up on disciplining our children? There are as many reasons as there are families, but here are some common causes:

  • we as parents are tired
  • we give in
  • we are disciplining the same bad behavior again and again
  • we give in
  • our children whine and fuss
  • we give in
  • we forget to follow through, i.e. make sure they don’t use their device, get desert, etc.
  • we give in

Do we see a pattern here? We give in, we aren’t consistent, we don’t follow through on what we say.

I will always remember a high school junior telling his classmates that he didn’t care that his parents had grounded him for a month. “They will forget about it in a week.”

If I say that there is a certain consequence for a certain behavior – I must FOLLOW THROUGH.

If I don’t act on my discipline consistently, I am sending the very strong message that I don’t mean what I say, and that there aren’t really any consequences for my child’s actions.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Notice verse 11 says discipline is “painful”. It is often harder for us as parents to follow through than to give in.

BUT….giving in has a price.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Let’s commit ourselves to consistent discipline so that afterward we will reap a peaceful harvest of right living.

We will have a peaceful home when we commit ourselves to following through – meaning what we say.

We can have a peaceful home, even in the midst of chaos.

Philippians 4:6-7 LB

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

Think on These Things

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Spring is my favorite season of the year. I love seeing the trees bud, the flowers bloom, and the birds building their nests.

If you were here right now you would hear me break out in song!

(scary, huh?)

I remember a friend telling me years ago that it is good for our SOULS to work in the garden. It certainly is good for mine. I see God in all that He created and tending our little part of this vast universe does wonders in helping me keep things in perspective.

Such as –

  • I cannot keep poison ivy out of every part of our property – but I can keep it out of my flower beds and yard. I cannot keep hatred out of our culture – but I can keep it out of my own heart and mind.
  • When plants are new, I need to nurture and protect them. I need to nurture and protect my grandchildren from negative influences when they are in our home by my example.
  • I can protect my plants as much as possible, but their ability to grow and bloom depend on many variables like the temperature, rainfall, pests, etc. that are beyond my control. I must guard my own heart and mind and then trust God in the things beyond my control.
  • I must not neglect my plants after they start growing and even begin blooming. I must weed around them, pulling up weeds as soon as I see them before they take over. When I notice negative attitudes in myself and my children or grandchildren, I must address them right away before they “take root” and take over.
  • I need to “deadhead” or cut blooms from my blooming plants so that they will continue blooming. The best way to do this is share flowers with friends. I must give away or share the gifts God has given me so that I will continue producing more spiritual fruit.

These are a few of the thoughts that nurture my soul as I tend our garden. So many of the things that concern me in our world are far beyond my control.

Yet there are things I can do, starting with my own heart and mind.

I must start there – but not STOP there. As God gives me opportunities to put into practice what I have learned, I need to be faithful to respond.

In Philippians 4:8 (MSG)  Paul says the following –

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

As I tend my garden, I will think on these things – the true, noble, gracious, authentic, beautiful things.

Then, by God’s grace, I will put them into practice.

 

 

Be an Ambassador

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My daughter Hannah and I had the privilege of staying two nights in the home of the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in 2006 when we were visiting Washington, DC.

We had a lovely visit and even went to a celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day at the Nigerian Embassy with our host and hostess. I saw the most beautiful dresses there that I have ever seen!

How did we happen to have this amazing opportunity?

Well, the story starts in 1956 when I was 5 years old.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that evolved into a house in a neighborhood four blocks from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. My parents housed students from Wheaton College to help pay their mortgage.

One of those students was a brilliant young man, Raymond Joseph, from Haiti. He was studying at the college and would always greet us in the mornings and evenings in French as he passed by us to his room upstairs. He had the most beautiful smile and was always interested in what my brothers and I were doing.

Raymond Joseph went on to study at the University of Chicago and later worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and worked as a leader in the Haitian opposition movement of then dictator, Francois Duvalier.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call 55 years later from Raymond Joseph!

He was calling from Washington, DC where he was living and serving as Ambassador to the United States from Haiti. Raymond had been in touch with my mother and she had given him my phone number. We talked for a long time catching up and reminiscing.

He said that if we ever came to Washington, DC we were welcome to stay with him.

Don’t ever say that to the Woodys – we will come!!!

We had the most delightful visit. Ambassador Joseph had his limo pick us up and drop us off for a tour of the Haitian Embassy. We talked at length about the issues facing his homeland and his efforts to work for progress and real change for his people. His love for Haiti and his people was evident in his home, his office, and all he shared with us.

The definition of ambassador is – an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign county.

Raymond Joseph was an excellent ambassador. He represented Haiti well from 2005 to 2010.

The recent appointments of ambassadors for our new administration has prompted the above memories and also started me thinking of our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 5:20-21 says –

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,  so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

What a beautiful message of reconciliation!

We, God’s children, should be representing our Heavenly Father in such a way as to make others who aren’t Christians desire to become part of God’s kingdom.

Are we being good ambassadors?

Do our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, anyone we come in contact with – do they see a Jesus in us who loves them so much He died for them?

  • Do others see grace or condemnation?
  • Do they see joy or sadness?
  • Do they see faith or fear?

God is making His appeal through us!

May we be faithful ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear

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Fear is darkness.

Have you ever woken up at night and fearful thoughts start running through your head? Those thoughts tend to multiply and sometimes become overwhelming. The fear grips us in a mental, emotional and even physical way. The darkness becomes even darker.

I remember vividly a time soon after the birth of our first child when fear gripped me in this way. Phil was late getting home from a trip (before cell phones!) (although that might not have made a difference since Phil’s cell phone is most often on his dresser – turned off!) and I became consumed with fear. My mind went wild as I planned his funeral, planned how I was going to live as a widow, and raise our little boy without his father. The more I thought, the worse those thoughts became. The darkness became darker!

When he walked in the door, I was an emotional mess!

Yet we may have those same fearful thoughts in the midst of the day and they don’t seem quite as terrible.

Why?

It is the LIGHT of day.

We see things more clearly.

Jesus says in John 8:12 –

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John explains the blessing of recognizing Jesus as the Light and following Him.  – I John 1:7

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Fear is darkness.

Faith is light.

As we allow the Light of Jesus to enter our minds and hearts we will have faith. Just as turning on a light in a dark room reveals where things are located so we don’t stumble and fall, the Light of God’s word illuminates our daily path as we follow Him.

Psalm 119:105 says –

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

When our children are fearful we need to share this truth with them as well. I memorized this verse from Psalms as a child and it still reminds me to follow the light of faith, not the darkness of fear.

There is so much to be concerned about in our world today. We must not let the darkness close in. Fear of the future can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. We should be examples of hope by our words and deeds.

We can choose to walk in the Light!

Don’t Let the Fire Go Out

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I heard a truck in the driveway and the first thing I did was glance at the wood stove.

Was there wood in the stove or had I let the fire go out?

As is often the case, I had been caught up in my book-making and I had forgotten to tend the fire. So, before Phil came in I quickly added wood and was sheepishly grinning when he entered the den.

After 41 years, Phil is accustomed to those sheepish grins. 🙂

Yes, I am easily distracted, yet when I am working on art, time literally slips away. I am totally immersed in the creative process and I need reminders to fulfill my other responsibilities.

We do this spiritually as well. We can get so caught up in “doing” for God that we forget to “tend the fire.”

What does it mean to “tend the fire” spiritually?

It means that we are re-stocking our lives with fuel from the Source, in other words making sure that we are receiving fresh spiritual food from God’s Word. I have been a Christian for almost 60 years, yet I can’t survive on old teaching from my past – as good as it was.

Anyone who heats with wood will tell you – old wood burns up fast!

I need to allow Holy Spirit to speak to me with fresh insight for the current issues I face today. As I read the Bible, the Living Word, it feeds the flames of the spiritual fire within me. This past weekend I attended a women’s conference at our church. Katherine Wright shared from her heart some things that the Lord had been teaching her recently through very tragic circumstances.

“We have created for ourselves an illusion of safety,” Katherine said. “My recent study of Scripture has made me realize that this was NOT Paul’s or the early Christians view of suffering.”

In I Peter 1:6-9, Peter encourages Christians that their suffering has a purpose –

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I must be faithful to feed the spiritual fire within me through reading God’s Word, hearing Biblical teaching, and listening to the Holy Spirit within me. Katherine’s words clarified for me the truth that suffering is part of life, yes, a NORMAL CHRISTIAN life.

Feeding on the Word of God will keep my fire burning!

Heart Problems

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“Lord, don’t let my heart get hard.”

Phil and I were snowed in on Sunday. Our road had not been plowed and since it was 9 degrees when we woke up, the surface of our road was snow and ice. It was beautiful, especially since we are blessed with a wood stove and are able to look out our windows from a place of warmth.

We took some time to share what was on our hearts – what we felt that God has been impressing on each of us. Then we prayed.

One thing I shared with Phil was that I did not want to allow a critical, or hard heart to develop. I don’t want my grandchildrens’ foremost memory of me to be

“NO”.

We probably all have family members who are most remembered for their critical, crabby attitude, especially as they got older. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Each of our older grandchildren have gone through a “no” phase, usually from around 18 months to two years of age. We recognize this as a stage in development that is normal as a child learns that they are a separate entity and that they have a free will. They also learn that words express meaning – “no” means “I don’t want to”. As caring parents and grandparents we need to discipline these children to understand that they can not always have their own way – nor should they. “No” is sometimes good for us.

How we respond to “no” becomes a matter of the heart – for each of us as well as our children.

Hard hearts develop when we refuse to accept that what we desire may not be God’s will for us.

My friend Patti shared at our last Bible study session on Ezekiel that the recurring theme of that book (not my favorite, I must admit, but needed by me) was the heart condition of God’s people – REBELLION.

Our heart problems start with rebellion.

When our children say “no” to us, it expresses their rebellion, their disobedience. Their hearts become hard instead of tender. They want their own way.

When we say “no” to God, it expresses our rebellion and begins the hardening process in our hearts.

Matthew 13: 14-16

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.’

We cannot hear nor understand what God is speaking when our hearts become hard. Patti went on to share these words that have been ringing in the belfry of my heart ever since she shared –

“The heart of God wants to recapture the hearts of His people”.

YES!

May we let God recapture our hearts.

Soft hearts that see and hear Him.