Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What kids will do!

The image above is my daughter's bed!  She has her bean bag on it, several stuffed animals, and her frog stuffed chair...but the interesting thing, of course, is the canopy which has collapsed onto everything.  She came to my room at about 10:35 p.m. last night to get me out of bed and said in a very meek, quiet voice, "Mommy, I need you to come here."

When I got to her room, I was surprised and immediately said, "How did this happen?"

The first words she  said as she innocently began her story, "Well, I was just sitting there...."!

Somehow, 'just sitting there' really doesn't fit this picture!!!

Mike & I could barely stifle laughter as we disassembled the fallen poles completely & removed the canopy promising to repair it tomorrow.  When we got back to our room, we really had a good laugh.

It is so funny when things like this happen!  It makes it so hard to be firm and keep a straight face while we tell her if she'd been in bed asleep as she was told this would not have happened.  Just thought I'd share!  Have a great day, ashley

Monday, January 28, 2013

Unstained religion?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27 NIV

I had a friend ask recently, "what is religion; how does it differ from belief and faith?"  I think I told her this was probably a question that many wrestle with and told her my best answer was that religion is something like an ordered practice.  One can be religious about many things; the way he or she does his or her job, cleans his or her home, takes care of others, works for a cause, or, of course, practices their faith.  It really does not necessarily have to have anything to do with God.  Therefore, does this 'religion' save you?  My easy answer was, "no!"
Belief is more than that.  True belief in God is more than religion.  Following and serving begin in the heart.  This will come out so much more as I begin week four of my James study.  I wish I had been posting every Friday as I finished each week's homework - but this study has been monumental and I want to share some of the beauty I have found in what Jesus' little brother penned!  In following up with my friend's question - I thought it fitting that I write James' definition of religion - because his is so much better than what I could come up with! 
The ESV (English Standard Version) says it like this: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."  James 1:27
Unstained?  This is hard; take care of others when it is sometimes hard to take care of ourselves, love the unloveable, help those who need it, get down in the mud so to speak?  In other words, why speak of our love for Christ if it doesn't compel us to get out of our pretty places, roll up our sleeves, and WORK?  But wait - don't get dirty!  What! I live in a tiny house and I have 6 children (some still at home and the others come to visit now), I babysit toddlers and an after-schooler, and I have a granddaughter.  I have never been able to clean this little place without getting dirty - even a light tidy will cause me to break a sweat!  So that causes me to pull back the reins and say, "whoa, how can I work without getting dirty?"
James gives us the answer - but the answer is so familiar, I think I missed it until now.  Love your neighbor (let's be honest, I'm asking him, "do you really mean all of them")?  Seriously?  I already know this stuff James....I quote them easily!  Between loving God, and serving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself; I have said those things so much I figured I had them down pat!  I mean Jesus says they are the greatest commandments, and I say them all the time.....so I got this, right?
NO!  I've read those words on cute, little needlework prints you could buy out of magazines that my grandmother used to receive since before I knew a thing about God.  Long before my dear, sweet Papa introduced me to my amazing Father, I quoted those words like a mantra.  I knew, when I was 6, to be nice to my neighbor and I even knew that that meant more than the lady next door.  I knew it was anyone I came in contact with.  I could read, but to REALLY love my neighbor, I just wasn't grasping that.  You see, God is LOVE, and before I knew God, I only knew love from a worldly perspective.  I think I just thought being nice and hurting no one was enough.  And if I were to dig a little deeper and try to reach out a little beyond myself, and do something to really help someone else - well - I must have really grasped it, right?
I don't want to say much more because I have begun my homework for week four now - and I must say - today's study was BIG for me.  So I will close by reverting back to the thought of remaining unstained.  How can we do that?  I think James is saying we can - if we continually keep bathing everything we do in real, pure love.
" "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied, " 'Love the Lord our your God with all your heart and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." "  Matthew 22:36-40

Friday, January 25, 2013

The book of James, a call to true faith!

This book has been absolutely monumental for me to study this closely.  How often have I skimmed carelessly over these words and not applied them in my life?  How often have I neglected to be obedient to my precious Father who wants only my love?  How often have I rejected him by my lack of concern for His will?  And how often have I caused another to stumble, or worse, by my lack of discipline, my failure to realize how important His call really is?

I have struggled with writing in this blog.  I have wanted a way to share with others - but sharing personally was never my plan!  I just wanted to find great ideas on how to save money, or find a great recipe, and maybe even make a little money with an ad while I learned to make laundry detergent at home!!  (By the way - I sure save a lot of money with just that one easy thing...evey little bit helps!)

However - getting personal online - was not my plan.  But - it's really not about me.  It never has been.  I guess I've just been so steeped in a greedy culture of people afflicted with entitlement - that I didn't even know it.  It's always been about Christ.  From the moment God shaped this earth in His hands, from the first bite of forbidden fruit, to the nervous laugh of Sarai and her long awaited son's first breath.  This entire time - I've blundered through life; making mistakes, sharing tears and joy, suffering, and growing, while I never realized that the reason I was having such a hard time is because I put too much emphasis on my needs.  His plan has never been about me.  I am a part of a precious story, the story He is writing with every breath we take.

God has blessed me so abundantly.  Through my children, I have learned to love more deeply than I ever thought possible.  They are the first of many gifts God gave me so I could learn to love unconditionally and completely.  Yet even still - this story is so much bigger.  He loves us so much - despite our disobediance.  However - I have finally reached a place of true desire for obedience.  I truly want to do whatever His plan is; though it scares me since I know that may mean something I never wanted to do.  My pastor challenged us recently to search the scriptures to find a place that God has done BIG things without personal sacrifice.  I don't know what God may be asking of me - and sometimes I feels stretched so thin that I couldn't do another thing; but I want to obtain the righteousnesss He wants us to strive for.  But what has held me back until now?  Why have I never really felt ready to do His will.  I think I have been stuck by feeling unworthy.  I know that my many mistakes have left me feeling drained and unfit for His work.  Yet, He still offers mercy - He literally rains mercy down over us. 

Lord, I want to be your child; to depend on you fully.  I am so thankful for the freedom you have offered us and the amazing love you have for us, though we do nothing to deserve it.  My prayer today is that someone who is trapped in a life of sin.  Someone who may not even mind living in a lost, fallen world, will hear you now.  They will feel your whisper, and heed your call.  Maybe a young person who has not made the many mistakes as I have will fall in love with you and prevent a life of unneeded heartache that results from disobedience.  Maybe another who has never understood what it is you offer us will leave a life of lostness to cling to your promises.  Lord, I love you and I want you not to forget us.  It must be difficult for you to see the world as it has become so distorted from your original creation.  I pray that you will strengthen us to remember what You have done for us and stand up for the Truth that is Christ!  Breathe on us anew Lord, and awaken in our hearts a yearning for You.  In your precious, sweet son's name I pray. Amen.

Take the time to study this book...I have truly been convicted by the words of James and I pray that they will change you for God's Glory as well!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:2-27