Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Domestic Diva Corner: Bedtime

OK... its confession time.  Bedtime in my house is... an experience.  My daughter is, in her own words, "never tired".  And in her 3 years of life, she has proven that she can easily stay up until midnight if given the opportunity.  Bedtime makes me want to pull my hair out, mostly because I'm so tired, and I can't understand how or why my beautiful girl doesn't angelically float to her bed, lay down, and drift peacefully off to sleep.  I started to think it was only me.  Especially after my cousin recently disclosed that his daughter is in the bed at 7:30 every night with no exceptions.  And then I read this post over at Inspired to Action and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.  I'm not the only one.  And what was even more beautiful was that it lead me to this post from I Take Joy.  In a nutshell, the writer talks about how she prioritized bedtime with her children, made it a special time, and closed every day with a blessing.  The post is so beautiful and inspiring.  It just really moved me, and I hope it will move you too.  --Lady S.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Daily Bread: Sacrifices of Joy

"And now mine head shall be lifted above, mine enemies round about me.  Therefore will offer in his tabernacle, sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord."  Psalm 27:6

How can you sacrifice joy?  A sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or lives as an act of worship.  It is the surrender or destruction of something prized, important, or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher value or greater importance.  So how do you sacrifice joy?  How do you offer joy as an act of worship? How can you surrender or give up joy for something higher?

Joy is an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.  It is a state of happiness or felicity.  Can you imagine anything higher than joy?  Joy is elation, bliss, delight, rapture, and wonder.  What could possibly be higher than that?

 Nehemiah 8:10 says "for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  Psalm 16:11, "Your presence is the fullness of joy."  Psalm 35:9, "And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in His salvation."

My joy is the joy that comes from doing well at work, or making my children smile, or passing a test, or making my mother happy.  Those things are great, but they can't compare to the joy of the Lord.  My joy comes from thinking about how good God has been to me, what He brought me through.  My testimony is my joy.  But the joy of the Lord is even higher than that.  I lay down my joy to enter into the joy of the Lord.

Does sacrificing my joy mean that I walk around with a frown on my face?  No, because my joy is replaced by the joy of the Lord.  The joy of the Lord is greater than elation, greater than delight, and greater than bliss.  The joy of the Lord is greater than being joyful because of what God has done .  The joy of the Lord is being joyful simply because God is, God was, and God always will be.  The joy of the Lord does not wax or wane, it does not change, it is a constant joy.  Once you have it, it never goes away.  I will sing, yea I will sing praises unto the Lord, not because of what He's done.  I've sacrificed that kind of joy.  I will sing praises unto the Lord, not because of what He's allowed me to accomplish.  I've sacrificed that kind of joy.  I will sing praises unto the Lord because of who He is.  --Lady S.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daily Bread: Nehemiah

I was cleaning up my house and uncovered a page that was torn out of a notebook and was dated July 30th.  Now, I'm guessing that because these were notes that I'd obviously taken in church, they must be from 2007 before I had kids!  Since having kids, the times that I've been able to actually take notes in church have been few and far between.  

Anyway, in these notes the preacher was talking about Nehemiah, the man given the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  My notes say, "God wants us to use our lives for a specific purpose.  We are placed on this earth with gifts and talents that are waiting to be used for a divine purpose and until we accomplish that purpose we will find emptiness."  

Now what came next really hit me hard.  "Nothing can prevent you from doing the work that is required to fill your purpose.  But it won't necessarily be easy.  Struggle is necessary.  When you have to struggle you appreciate your purpose more.  Struggle gauges your level of commitment.  Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives because struggle qualifies you to help others.  When you've stood your ground and weathered the storm you are a help to others.  Thank God for the struggle.  There is not testimony without a test.  There is no victory without a battle."   

Given my last post of Dry Bones, I think maybe God is trying to tell me something.  --Lady S.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daily Bread: Dry Bones

"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest... Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD."  Ezekiel 37:1-3, 11-14

This parable of the valley of dry bones is a message of hope.  It reminds us that God has promised to restore His people to life.  It tells us that even if we are at a place where we are spiritually dead, that God can and will restore us to life.  It reminds us that no matter what valley we are in, that God will deliver us.  He's done it before so he will do it again, and again, and again.  

While the overall parable gives us a timeless message of hope about being delivered from the valley of dry bones, I think there is an important lesson to be learned about being in the valley of dry bones itself.  The valley of dry bones is a place of pain, suffering, and despair.  For most of us, the valley of dry bones is a place that we have visited on several occasions in our lives:  when we've lost a loved one, when we're battling some type of disease, when we've lost a house or a job.  We all have examples of a time when we looked around and suddenly found ourselves down in the midst of a valley that was full of bones.  I don't know about you, but when I find myself there, my first response is get me out of here, make this stop, deliver me from this spiritual pain, or emotional pain, or physical pain.

Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensation often caused by intense or damaging stimuli.  It motivates withdrawal from damaging or potentially damaging situations, protection of a damaged body part while it heals, and avoidance of similar experiences in the future.  So while the sensation of pain is unpleasant, pain really has an awesome purpose. It causes us to pay attention to a particular situation that we may or may not be neglecting.  It causes us to protect ourselves while we go through the healing process or the process of deliverance.  It causes us to take note so that we can avoid experiencing the same pain again, or at least be better able to handle the pain the next time around.  

Perhaps we should change our perspective on pain.  Maybe we should be thankful for it, because it makes us who we are.  I am a clumbsy person.  And as such, I have fallen down stairs on several occassions (and even tripped and fell going up the stairs a couple of times).  Now that I'm a mom who is often either carrying a child or holding the hand of a child I always take extra special care on the stairs.  I don't want to fall and hurt myself.  And I really don't want my kids to get hurt.  The pain of falling down has made me this way.  

Similarly, the pain of going through these valleys of dry bones have made us who we are.  Our valley build strength and character.  So for those of you are, like me, in the midst of the valley of dry bones, remember that God heals, God provides, God delivers.  But remember that this test will soon be your testimony.  --Lady S.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Daily Bread: Encourage Yourself

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.  1 Samuel 30:6

This past week has been one for the books!  My mother is in the hospital battling a condition related to her diabetes.  My children decided to take their colds to the next level and get pink eye.  To top it all off, a co-worker of mine tried to put me on blast and attack not only my intelligence, but my ability to do my job.  

After spending time writing about and reflecting on suffering, I felt like these recent events were just an opportunity to put my prudent strategy into effect.  But by Monday, I found myself looking around for a word of inspiration.  I went back and read some of the past daily breads to keep me uplifted and focused.  Lord lift me up and We must strive have kept my spirits high and have kept God on my mind as I go through this valley.  

And then this song came on my Pandora station.  Speak over yourself.  Encourage yourself in the LORD.  The song made my realize that while its nice and beneficial to look for support and encouragement from outside, that inside me I have everything I need to keep going, keep pushing, keep smiling.  And so do each of you.  So today take some time to encourage yourself in the LORD.  --Lady S.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Daily Bread - I WILL BE...!

"10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

 11And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that 
I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

 12And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain."     - Exodus 37:10-12

"I want to... I wish I could... I wish I had..."

If you have ever uttered these words with the end of the sentence filled with an unrealized desire or goal, I invite you to focus on one thing. 

GOD said I WILL BE...

GOD said this to Moses when he started to question his purpose and authority to go before Pharaoh. Just as we all do at times, Moses needed a little reassurance. 

If you take the time to consider the things that God has been for you in the past, it will be a surefire way of reassuring and reminding yourself of what He IS and what He WILL BE for you right now.

At times, personally we all lack confidence in ourselves and about the path of our lives. But the question we must ask ourselves is why be "scary" when God himself said He will BE with you every step of your journey...

His power is non-conforming and everlasting. He can BE whatever you need Him to be, whenever you need Him to BE it, and in a way that will definitely let you know that it was Him alone who worked on your behalf!

And, the ultimate beauty of God's omnipresence and omniscience is that even while He propping me up, He can lift you up just the same. When He is being a mother and father to me, He won't cease to be a support system for you. 

I encourage you to hone in on what you would like to be or do, and realize that if you acknowledge and court His presence in your life, you can do nothing... but BE that which you want to BE!

Believe. Receive. and then give Thanks!

- Lady R. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Daily Bread: Prudent Strategy

"A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all. A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life." Proverbs 22:1-4

The word prudent means acting with or showing care and thought for the future. The scripture says that a prudent man foresees evil, and hides himself. So the prudent man (or woman) knows that evil will come and acts in way that shows that he or she has already given thought or planned for the future situation.  In a post last week, I submitted the idea that suffering was inevitable.  So if we know that bad things will happen, that life will inevitably throw us a curve ball, we should have a strategy in place that we can hide in when the time comes.  

Last week,  I suggested that we should practice praising God in the good times so that it would be easier to do in the bad times.  This week, I think that the strategy needs to be a little more concrete than that.  So I started to think about what I've done when I've come face to face with evil. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I do have a strategy in place, because I've realized that I do the same thing every time.  

Step One.  Pray.  I usually just straight up ask God to make the situation better or make it go away.  And then, when I'm a little bit calmer, I acknowledge that there is some lesson in the situation, so I ask for the strength to endure whatever the evil is, to be open to His will in the situation, and to be used as an instrument in the process.  

Step Two.  Prayer Warriors.  I have some praying friends.  I mean friends that can go to God on my behalf with my best interest at heart.  I don't even have to ask them to pray.  I just tell them the situation and they usually respond with, "I'll pray for you".  If you don't have some prayer warriors in your life, get some.  There is something so comforting about knowing that somebody is praying for you.  

Step Three.  Keep My Focus on God.  Evil situations can be distracting and draining.  In order to keep my focus on God and off  the situation, I listen to gospel music constantly.  Thanks to the Brighter Day radio station that I created on Pandora, I have an endless stream of songs that remind me that God is in control, that  trouble won't last always, that there's going to be a brighter day, that the LORD is with me. 

This is the strategy that I hide in every time evil comes my way.  What about you?  What is your prudent strategy?  --Lady S.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daily Bread: Memorialize Your Praise

"This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD. For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD."  Psalm 102: 18-22

There is power in the writing for the generation to come.  Thanks to Lady R and Lady A, who had the inspired thought to create this blog and the technological ability to make it a reality, I have the opportunity to write all the time.  There is something so powerful about being able to sit at my computer, open my heart, and let God's praise flow through my finger tips.  That is what each of us was created to do... Praise the LORD.  But we have to find some way to memorialize our praise, to write it down, to make it permanent in our hearts and our minds.  

We have to find a way to memorialize our praise, so that the generations coming behind us will see that if nothing else, their forefathers (or foremothers) praised the LORD.  We may not be able to leave them trust funds or mansions, but we can leave them a legacy greater than all the finances in the world.  Let the record show, that we were a people who were ready, willing, and able at all times to praise the LORD.   

I praise God for waking me up, for starting me on my way, for tempering my morning grumpiness by giving me loving sisters who both made me laugh out loud this morning.  I praise God that even though my babies are battling colds (again) that He has made their Aunty available to take care of them today.  I praise Him for keeping me open to His will in my life, for encouraging me to go forward even if I don't understand how or why or when or what.  I praise Him for teaching me to trust Him.  Let the record show that in the midst of my human undoneness and turmoil that I myself created, I will stop what I'm doing and start praising the LORD.  

So this morning I put it on you to memorialize your praise in the comments.  What's your praise report?  What do you want generations to come to know about how you praised the Lord on this day? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daily Bread: Suffering

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:  Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.  Job 19:25- 27

Pain and suffering are part of life.  I don’t mean that in a morbid or depressing way.  I just mean to state it as a fact.  Our physical bodies have limitations.  This life is full of upsets, disappointments, and hurts.  These things are not anomalies.  They are not rare occurrences.  They happen everyday.

So maybe we should just accept that bad things happen.  That way, when they do happen, we don’t start wondering why.  Why me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Am I being punished?  Perhaps we should just accept that sometimes the car will break down or the money will be tight (or nonexistent), that unemployment may come, that relationships will end, that people will pass away.

Then maybe we can move away from thinking that these things happen because we did something wrong.  Or that things are happening to us because we have bad luck.  Or that these things are happening to us because God is mad at us, so we therefore become mad at God.  No.  These occurrences are just part of life.  And  they only have as much power as we give them.  It is our job, as people of faith, to rise above the suffering, and keep our eyes on God.

Being a child of God does not mean that we will not suffer.  But it does mean that we focus on God in response to our suffering.  Rather than destroy our own peace of mind, by replaying the hurt or the disappointment, or feeling sorry for ourselves, we focus our energy on the One who can deliver us.  This is much easier said than done.  I mean when the money is low, and there is no job on the horizon, and you have no idea what your move will be, its not going to be easy to sing songs of praise.  But that’s why its important to work daily on strengthening your relationship with God.  If you don’t pray and praise in the good times, it will be that much harder to do it in the bad times.

I’ve noticed that this is a particularly difficult concept for people who are non-believers.  They can’t understand telling someone to thank God and praise Him when things are going wrong.  But that is because they are focused on the cause and effect of the situation itself.  I don’t have a quid pro quo relationship with God.  He blesses me when I haven’t done anything to deserve being blessed.  He has brought me out of countless situations and circumstances.  He has shown me a way when I couldn’t see one for myself.  And because I know He’s done it before, I know He will do it again.  I don’t have to know when my deliverance will come because  I know that I will be delivered.  I know that my Redeemer lives.  I know that God is not some random, uncaring, deity that haphazardly inflicts punishment on humanity.  I know that everything I go through has a purpose, is strengthening me for some future battle.  No matter what I go through, I know for myself that when it is all over, I will look back and I will see God in the situation.  So while I’m going through it, I will keep my eyes on Him, trusting that it is all for good. --Lady S.