A Confused Mockingbird 

I got to run yesterday morning! 

That sentence might not end with an exclamation mark for all people but for me it does. The past month has been exciting and busy. There have been many miles put on the mini-van. Add VBS and a bout of stomach virus and exercise has taken a back seat. Lacing up my tennis shoes yesterday morning to get a few miles in before my husband left for work was an exciting thing.

I normally run in the afternoon but with the heat of summer coming I’m establishing new habits. The morning was quiet. Not many cars were on the road and the dogs that normally alert the world that I am out were otherwise occupied. I did, however, hear a bird singing in one of the trees lining the street.

Now, there are people who can hear the song of a bird and know exactly what kind it is. I remember reading Little House on the Prarie as a girl and being amazed that Laura knew the songs of each species. 

I’m not one of those people. 

I’m pretty sure that the bird I heard was a mockingbird, though.  Mockingbirds are known for imitating the songs of other birds and even imitating amphibians and insects. If mockingbirds are known for imitating other birds, how would I know that the bird I heard was a mockingbird? I distinctly heard a bird singing the song of a car alarm. 

I was running thinking, “That doesn’t sound right! Something is messed up. That’s a bird, but that’s not the song of a bird. That’s not what birds are supposed to sound like!” Birds were made to sing beautiful melodic songs, not alternate between two pitches mechanically. He learned a new song from the world around him. How sad!

So often, though, we are like that confused mockingbird. He has a wonderful ability to sing many different songs but rather than singing the songs it was born to sing, it imitated something not worthy of imitation. Too often, we learn a “new song” from the world around us. Rather than reflecting what God created us to be, we begin reflect the world around us- things not worthy of reflection.

Romans 12:1-2 are two of my favorite verses. They come to mind so often. The second verse stood out in my mind that morning.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed but the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The mockingbird I heard that morning had conformed to the pattern of the world- the sound of a car alarm of all things! We can so easily conform to the patterns of the world around us, too. We can allow the world to influence the way we view sin, the way we value life, our work ethic,… the list could continue forever! We have to guard against this, though, and intentionally allow our minds to be renewed. This transforms our whole lives.

So please don’t be like the confused mockingbird in my neighbor’s tree. Don’t conform to the world around you. Let Jesus transform your life.

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How many times did you sweep today?

Yes, sweep. As in the floor.

I’m in the stage of motherhood in which lots of crumbs are produced. I sweep at least part of my kitchen at least one time every day. There are times I’ve swept as many as four times in a day. Have you been there?

I swept after snack this afternoon. Yesterday I swept before I mopped. The day before, I swept twice since Jacob mowed and tracked grass in and, well you get the picture.

There are several reasons I sweep daily. I don’t like seeing crumbs or feeling them under my feet, or maybe someone spilled something or tracked something in. Looming in my mind, however, is that this time of year I have to be pro-active about clearing away crumbs before ants find them. I really. Don’t. Like. Ants.

I was thinking about the daily-ness of sweeping and “daily” lingered in my head. My mind was taken to a verse I memorized years ago when I went through a Bible study called Experiencing God. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (NASB, emphasis mine)

Just as I am diligent to sweep every day, I need to be diligent to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus daily. To deny myself, I have to kill my pride; that human side of me that creeps in and wants to be the one in control. I have to take up my cross daily. To take up my cross is to choose to die. Paul said it this way in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (NASB) I have to do this daily because every day, multiple times a day, I try to take control back from God.  If I am going to follow God, I have to let him lead. 

It would not work if our 8 year old got in our van and began to give me directions on where I should drive her according to her agenda. She doesn’t know how to drive and she is like me at that age in that whenever we are going somewhere her nose is in a book. I am not sure that she would know how to give directions. Beyond all of this, though, she isn’t in charge. She doesn’t set the agenda, I do. If she is going to ride with me, she has to follow my lead.

So often, though, that’s how we address God – as if we lead and He follows granting wishes like a genie. Who are we to think that we can set an agenda and expect God to get us there? Luke 9:23 reminds us that we deny ourselves daily. We take up our crosses daily. We follow Him daily.

When we are dying to self daily, we become more sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and we don’t like the feeling of things coming between us and God so we repent of those things. Things that spill into our lives, the sin-dirt that we track in is easily identified and dealt with. We also become pro-active about dealing with sin before it takes root and becomes a bigger problem.

Just like sweeping, it has to be a daily activity, sometimes several times a day.

So, have you swept today 😉?

Motherhood as a picture of Christ 

Every person who is here today was born from a woman. Regardless
of your relationship with that woman, she sacrificed to bring you into this
world and I’ve gotten a new perspective of this sacrifice through carrying and delivering our two daughters.  

When I was carrying our oldest, back in 2008, Jacob and I were at church for a drop-in communion on the Sunday before Memorial Day. I was around 3 months pregnant. Our pastor handed us the bread and said, “This is my body broken for you. Do this in rememberance of Me.” I teared up. I had a new appreciation for what Christ did for me as I was anticipating my body being broken for the sake of the baby I was carrying. 

When he handed us the cup and reminded us of Christ’s blood shed for us to establish the New Covenant: to establish new life. I had no idea what would come with delivery but the woman who delivered you knows that for new life to be birthed, blood is shed.

I cannot identify with what Christ endured for us on the cross, but I have a new, deeper appreciation for what He went through for me because of the experience of bringing a child into the world.  

I know that every baby comes differently but I knew more of what to expect the second time around. I know why they call it labor; it’s hard work. For the joy of  holding the baby and building a relationship with that little one, women labor, some go through surgery. Christ, for the joy of bringing us into relationship with Himself, endured the cross.  

Again, I cannot equate the delivery of a baby with the cross, but I have a greater amazement that my Savior would love me so much that He  would give His body, His blood, His life so completely for me. 

This picture is from Mothers Day 2013. I was days away from delivering our second daughter.

Exercise

I heard a sermon on Hebrews 12:1-2 during a chapel while I was at Union. The speaker was a runner and since that passage speaks about running, he gave great perspective on the passage.

I only started running a few years ago. But my run this afternoon reminded me of these verses. Let me remind you…

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith...” Hebrews 12:1-2a (NASB)

I have a family member who has more experience running than me who is rumored to take an hour to get ready to run. Between stretching, making shoes are laced right, warming up, and I’m not sure what else, he spends lots of time preparing.

I, however, don’t put much thought into running. I have my exercise shoes and I have workout clothes. Once I have them on, I’m ready to go. Honestly, if I have time to run, I don’t have time to spend getting ready. That came back to bite me, today, though. I quickly threw on my workout clothes, got the girls situated playing with the water table and I started running laps up and down our property line.

That’s when the issues started. 

With every step I took, my pants had other ideas. I kept going but I had to stop every lap to pull my compression pants up from the knees, up the thighs, and then reposition the waistband. This got old very quickly. I finally darted inside to swap to a different pair of shorts. When I re-emerged, I found myself free from the constant tugging and distraction… until the dog showed up. 

There’s a dog that lives 2 houses down. I’m not sure what kind it is but it looks like a long-haired chihuahua. It’s loud and it likes to make sure we know that it’s in charge. Of course it’s not. I’ve charged it and told it to go home without result. I’ve run carrying a stick but it’s awkward and waving a stick doesn’t do much good. I’ve learned to pick up a few pieces of gravel from the side of the road and carry them with me and when the dog gets obnoxious, I throw a rock his direction. Before you get upset, I’ve never hit him and I don’t think I could. My aim is worse than my throwing arm.

So I ran a few laps with rocks in my hands. This was not ideal, either. The rocks were not heavy but they felt like they were out of place. As soon as the dog found someone else to aggrivate I put the rocks down and kept going.

As I was running and thinking about Hebrews 12:1-2, I realized what an encumbrance those pants were. They aren’t bad pants. They can’t be good or bad, they don’t make decisions. The pants weren’t serving their purpose, though- to get out of my way and let me run. The rocks were an encumbrance as well. They aren’t bad, but I didn’t need them. They were a distraction from what I was doing. 

The writer of Hebrews encouraged us to identify the things that weigh us down, that distract us from running our race and lay them down. We are to keep our eyes, our focus, on Jesus and if we are distracted our focus is off.

The book of Nehemiah records the process of rebuilding the wall that surrounded Jerusalem after the exiles returned. The wall was important for protection. Nehemiah was leading this process and the bad guys were trying to prevent the progress. They didn’t want the city to have a wall. The bad guys saw that the wall was almost finished and as a last effort, they sent Nehemiah an invitation to a meeting. Of course, the bad guys had ulterior motives. Nehemiah gives one of the best responses ever.

I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3 (NASB)

I encourage you, identify and let go of what is hindering you from the work God has called you to. Whether it be a distraction, an unnecessary burden, or anything that brings progress to a halt, be like Nehemiah. Declare, “I’m not going to let the Enemy distract me from what I am here on Earth for!”
By the way, anyone looking for a pair of workout pants? I’ll give them to you for free!
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A leftover biscuit and some blueberry juice…

Last night, just after 3 a.m., I heard a desperate cry for momma. Before I was completely awake, I was navigating our youngest’s room in the dark, not sure what I would find. My hands found her head and before I could even kiss her, she announced the need to “go to the ‘west room’ .” So we took care of business and I tucked her back in and headed back to bed… only to be keenly aware that the sudden jolting from my bed had my body confused… and wide awake.

I laid in bed, praying, pondering worship the next morning, refusing to turn the T.V., and watching the minutes click by on the clock until 45 minutes later I heard a door click and creek open. Anticipating the arrival of our 3 year old, I rolled over and prepared to cuddle with her. We moved to our “rocky chair” in the living room with the blanket I made for her.

At 4:25, I took her to bed and returned to my place beside my husband, only to remain awake. A few minutes after 5, I hear the same click and creek. And a tiny body joins me under the covers. She whispers in her tiny voice that she is having a hard time sleeping. I confess that I am, too. Somehow, though, our breathing slows and we both drift off.

The alarm goes off to get ready for church but I miss it. (This frustrated me, but didn’t surprise me.) I pushed “go” on the coffee maker and headed back to our bedroom. Jacob looked at me and responded that his head was hurting. After the night we had, “Why don’t we stay home and rest more?”

Please understand, this isn’t normal for us. If one of the girls is sick, an adult stays home with her, but the rest of us go to church. We don’t skip church. This morning, it felt different, though.  I climbed back in bed beside our sleeping daughter and found rest easily. We woke up several hours later, better prepared to face the day. 

We finally drank the coffee that was waiting and ate breakfast. Then Jacob went to the fridge with a small glass. I wondered what he was doing. He poured a little bit of blueberry juice into the glass and brought a leftover biscuit with it to the table. He left and came back with 2 more glasses and his Bible. He read from 1 Corinthians chapter 11 and we talked about the symbolism of what Jesus was doing. We talked about remembering and proclaiming; that the Lord’s Supper is for us, those who know Him, but also for those who, like our 3 year old, don’t have a relationship with Him, yet. 

Later, I stumbled upon the streaming service of the church my brothers’ families attend. The pastor was preaching about our struggle to control our lives. He reminded us of Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (NASB)

This morning, we needed rest. We realized that, physically. In seeking physical rest, we found spiritual rest through a change in pace, worshipping together around the Table at our table, and remembering that “it is finished”.  We had some time of Sabbath.

I look forward to worshipping with our church family tonight, but I cherish the time we shared this morning.

Dishes

I’ve been attempting spring cleaning at our house. I read once that trying to clean your house with your children is like trying to brush your teeth while you’re eating Oreos. I can identify with that statement.

Since we homeschool, Saturday is my day of the week to accomplish other things around the house. Yesterday, my goal was to clean out the girls’ closet which led into cleaning the rest of MK’s room. I pulled all their clothes out. They were trying on different things and I was organizing other things in the closet. I ended up standing in the closet. MK found this very funny. (It’s not a walk-in closet. I’m sure it was amusing.)

As I was standing there, I looked to the side and saw my special dishes. My granny gave me a set of Kaysons Golden Rhapsody china from 1961 that she found at a yard sale. They stay in her closet because we don’t use them very often. I believe I’ve had my china out 3 whole times since she was born. In fact, I wash it every time I use it because I use it so seldom.

On the other hand, we have dishes that are in the dish drainer and are hardly ever put away because they are used so much. I’m sure you have them, too. Maybe it’s a favorite coffee mug, a cutting board, or a sippy cup that has the right character on it so your little one insists on using that one every time. 

Just the other day, we cleaned out the fridge- not my favorite task. It wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past, but there were useful dishes that got something in them that stayed too long. The leftovers got dumped out and those dishes got washed in HOT water.

I was reminded of how much we are like these dishes. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NASB) says this, “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor, and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” Paul wasn’t explaining dishwear to young Timothy. He was using dishes to teach a spiritual principle. 

As Christians, we want God to use us. We want to be like the dishes that stay in the dish drainer or dishwasher because they are the first ones reached for. We want God to use us to accomplish His purposes and glory. We want to be about His business but doing so means we get dirty.  For example, at times it became easy to grumble because things aren’t going as planned this can lead to gossip. My own sin starts to get in the way of my heart being sensitive to God’s leadership and being ready to serve. To be ready to be used, we must stay cleaned by the Word.  We must die to self daily and be moldable to his purposes. One of my girls might grab a bowl to use for cereal in the morning it gets washed and holds fruit at lunch. Another washing and it’s ready to hold a couple of cookies for a snack, then after it gets washed with the dinner dishes, it holds some trail mix as a late night snack. As we serve God we must frequently come back to Him to allow Him to reveal sin in our lives that He wants to get rid of so we can be ready to be used in new ways.

We might be like my china, though. Rather than being used frequently, we are sitting on a shelf… waiting. Waiting for the right opportunity, the right season of life, or for someone else to initiate. My china has to be washed in order to be used. If you are waiting to be used, get in the Word, ask God to show you what He is doing so that you can join Him. I heard someone say, “Don’t wait for special occasions to pull out the good dishes. Life is a special occasion.” I encourage you, get off the shelf and wash off the dust!

The dishes in the refrigerator are quite different from my china. They are used frequently. I have a few glass dishes that have lids that are the first ones I reach for when I have leftovers. They may stay in the fridge for a few days, but then, their contents are consumed and they get washed and are ready to be used again. Every so often, though, a bowl of leftovers gets pushed to the back and forgotten, it wasn’t that the contents started out rancid or moldy but they became that way with time. In order to be used again, the contents need to be emptied and the bowl needs to be washed. We might have some things that we are harboring that we need to let go of. We need to be emptied of the rancid attitudes or thought patterns and let God heal and clean out those places.

Please keep this in mind, our Enemy doesn’t want you to be used to accomplish God’s glory. If He can keep you distracted and separated from God then you aren’t threatening him.

Do you see a common pattern here? Remember Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (Verse 21) We want to be useful and prepared for whatever God has for us. Let’s do the work to be ready: get in the Word and allow God to reveal the dust, the attitudes, and the habits that hinder His work.

*I shared this several years ago at a women’s event at out church but seeing my china this afternoon brought all of this back to mind.

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What’s in a name?

I’m a mom. I’m washing dishes all the time; sippy cups that can’t go in the dishwasher; pots, pans, and cookie sheets; and since our dishwasher has sprung a leak, all of the plates, bowls, cups, and silverware that come with feeding a family of 4.
My sink is a holy place, though. While I’m there, I’m often thinking or praying. I might be thinking through song lyrics. I might be lifting friends and family up to the Soverign Lord, I might be praying about a situation that is heavy on my mind, or I could be owning up to areas of thinking that need to be changed. As I serve my family, I am serving Him. My hands aren’t holy because of what I do, but because of what Christ did for me on the cross. He made me holy- all of me.

My kitchen sink- where my dirty dishwater and holy hands meet-  is where I (dirty as I am) meet with Holy God. Often, I get a glimpse of God’s character, nature, or ways as I am serving my family in basic ways.

This blog is a place where I hope to share these glimpses with you and help you see God in your normal patterns of life.