Thursday, December 27, 2012

Now That Christmas is Over Again


After Christmas, there are unwrapped gifts on the coffee table and piano bench for about a week. I'm in no hurry to straighten things up. I rather like the disorderly collection, combined with memories of the faces as they opened their presents with joy. We have a simple system on Christmas day: Our children distribute the gifts to the nine of us, and then we all open them at the same time, shouting "thank you" to each family member one on top of the other. Then our children (even as adults) empty their Christmas stockings (shaped like Santa's pants--something that Norman H. found in a gift shop).

Giving and receiving are roots of Christmas. Christ gave, and many of us have received. And every year at Christmas, we celebrate the enormous blessing of Christ's Ultimate Gift of salvation with our tradition of exchanging gifts. But now that Christmas is over, what will you continue to give? Here are some ideas:

1. Give time to important matters. "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is you life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) By this time next year, wouldn't you like to look back and have the satisfaction of knowing that you used your numbered days wisely? While the calendar is still fresh, plug in the essentials, and then add the non-essentials rather than the other way around!

2. Give the benefit of the doubt more often. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matt. 7:12) We know this verse as the "Golden Rule," but like a speed limit sign, it is often ignored! We really appreciate it when people are quick to forgive us, but are we as quick to forgive others? This makes a great gift. Don't wait until next Christmas to give this to someone in need.

3. Give everyone more love. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Jesus said it right: We haven't even begun to love people like He loved us. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12) "Copy me," is what Christ has said to us. When we love people like He loved us, we will put their needs ahead of our own. This is not self-neglect; it is selfless love. There is a difference.

I hope that your Christmas was blessed and meaningful. Before you take down the tree and store all the decorations, consider making the coming year your thank-you note to God.

"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." (II Cor. 9:15)

www.keeptheheart.com


Monday, December 10, 2012

Why Abishag and Not Bathsheba?


When you read Bible stories, do you ever wonder about things? I often wonder, and one story on my "wonder list" is the account of the aged King David and his lovely young caregiver named Abishag. David already had plenty of wives, including one very beautiful stolen wife named Bathsheba. When David was struggling to stay warm (Scripture says "he got no heat"), why didn't he call for Bathsheba? I wonder...and I'm going to hazard a guess that they had grown apart over the years. I can't prove it, but it can't be conclusively denied, either. Here's the Scriptural account, to refresh your memory:

"Now kind David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he got no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunamite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not." (I Kings 1:1-4)

There are some underlying lessons for wives to consider within this passage:

1. The servants wanted someone to cherish the king.
As I've noted in previous lessons, there is a common likelihood that the longer we're married, the less we may tend to "cherish" one another. This goes both ways, with husbands also taking their wives for granted, but I'm writing to wives in this article, so we're looking at our side. What does it mean to "cherish" someone?

In the Strong's Concordance, this word means "to be of use or service, profit or benefit." Webster's Dictionary also has this definition: "To treat with tenderness and affection; to give warmth, ease or comfort to." We can see from these definitions that to cherish someone is to provide gentle, attentive loving care. Would your husband say that you treat him with tenderness and affection? If not, why not? "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Prov. 5:18) When we're not cherishing one another, there are unresolved conflicts lurking somewhere. Counsel may be needed to get to the bottom of the problem. Length of years together should increase our love; not decrease it.

2. This person had to be easy on the eyes and the nerves.
The term "fair damsel" meant that Abishag was young and good looking, but it also meant that she was pleasant and agreeable. Abishag couldn't stay young forever, and we obviously can't, either, but anyone can be pleasant and agreeable. In fact, a pleasant person is often considered to be beautiful. Physical beauty fades like a flower, but being easy to live with is timeless and attractive in its own right. Would you want to live with someone like you? If you have become unpleasant and disagreeable, changes are in order. "Let her be as the loving hind and the pleasant roe..." (Prov. 5:19a) Cheerfully good company is something that never gets old.

3. She had to be willing to make the king her full-time job.
Abishag had no job other than taking care of the the king's needs. Scripture says that she "ministered to him," which means that she served and waited on the king. In fact, Job One was to keep the king warm by lying in his bosom. This doesn't mean that in order to be great wives we must meet our husbands at the door after work with a blankie, ready to tuck them into bed and lie on their chests to keep them warm, but we could borrow a page from Abishag by being a bit more considerate of the needs of our husbands in general. 

Let's face it; we're all busy and very few of us have only one job. Some of us resemble the plate-spinners in the circus (the ones who spin plates on sticks), running back and forth trying to keep things from crashing to the ground! The problem with this system is that over time, our marriages can begin to resemble dorm room situations, with occasional exchanges but no real interaction. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him." (Gen. 2:18) A "help meet" is "one who helps."

It's interesting to note that the Hebrew word "ezer" (which means "help meet" in Gen. 2:18) is used at other times in Scripture to describe how God helps us. So, we are to help our husbands as the Lord helps us. "But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help (ezer) and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying." (Psa. 70:5) Many men were under the impression that they were marrying a helper as well as a loving companion for life, but this is often not the case. If you are too busy for your husband, reevaluate your schedule to make the necessary adjustments.

The relationship between David and Bathsheba was illegitimate, so we can't use them as a pattern for married couples, but it's worth considering that something was missing that caused the servants to seek out an Abishag. David collected wives like trophies, and wasn't recorded as an attentive husband to any of them for any length of time, but if we only consider the wife's side, we have to wonder: Did Bathsheba become cold and less caring over time? Why did they need an "Abishag" when they already had a "Bathsheba"? In fact, why did they need Abishag when there was a Michal, Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah?

Regardless of the answer, the bigger goal is to get each of us to carefully consider where we're headed in our own marriages. Too many people have become resistant to genuinely caring for each other. The repetitive song is "What About Me?" rather than a Christ-like focus on others. Selfishness can chill or kill a relationship.

We don't want to grow apart with age. We want to remain "joined together" for life. I don't know about you, but I would prefer to remain the "heat provider" in my husband's life, 'til death do us part.

 "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)

www.keeptheheart.com




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tangles in the Hair


We are all getting older. Does that thought scare you? It may, mainly because this is a youth-worshipping society, and one would have to be blind not to see how the aged are disrespected and at times, even despised. How would you like to be treated when you're old? The way we'd like to be treated is the way that we should currently be treating others. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matt. 7:12) We know this as "The Golden Rule." God teaches it as a life principle.

Norman and I have been visiting a lady for several years who attended our church years ago, but she is now what would  be called a "shut-in," leaving her home only for medical appointments. We were delivering groceries and just stopping by to spend some time with her recently, but I was saddened to see the changes that had happened in the months while I was away traveling. The Lord laid her on my husband's heart, and he said to me, "She's probably not long for this world. We need to go and see her." This dear lady is in her 90s and failing. In fact, at this visit, she asked me who I was, and I had to remind her of my name. She then looked at my husband and I said, "And that's Norman." She didn't seem to recognize either of us, but that didn't keep her from holding my hand.

As I looked into her face, I could see the lady I used to know, and I could even tell that the longer she studied my face, the more she was beginning to recognize and remember who I was. When I asked, "May I get you a bowl of cereal?" she perked up and accepted my offer. I watched as she drank the milk out of the bowl, leaving most of the cereal behind because she didn't feel like chewing. Do we even realize what a blessing it is to be able to enjoy our food?

After her light breakfast, I asked if I could comb the tangles out of her hair. You see, this sweet lady lives with her adult son, but he is also handicapped and cares for her as best he can. Social services has offered to move her into a nursing home, but she has steadfastly refused. Her son defends her decision, saying that a nursing home would "make her give up on living."

So, she spends her days in a recliner, leaving the chair only to go to the bathroom or to go to bed at night. Her hair was matted from sleep, so with her permission, I began the slow process of removing the tangles from what looked like many days. As I combed, she leaned into my hand. Once the tangles were out, I switched to brushing, and again, she leaned into the brush and seemed to genuinely enjoy this simple process. Do we even realize what a blessing it is to be able to brush our own hair?

If you have "shut-ins" in your church, adopt one or more and become their friend. We have it so good in this life, especially if we can jump into our cars, drive wherever we want, pick up our own groceries and carry them into the house, plus much more! We take these abilities for granted, but these are tasks that many can no longer do for themselves. Those of us who are able need to keep an eye on those who have needs. "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (I John 3:17)

Spending time around older people who have ailments, pains, memory loss, and more is good for us. It balances our view of life, reminding us of how things can change over time. It also deepens our compassion and makes us more thoughtful. "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous..." (I Pet. 3:8)

One day, if the Lord tarries, we may live to be 80, or even 90. To paraphrase Matthew 7:12, "Brush out someone's tangles, as you would have them brush out yours."

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (I John 3:16)

Author's note: This was written on November 10, 2012. On November 22, 2012, the dear lady who couldn't brush her own hair went to heaven.

www.keeptheheart.com


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are You Training Up a Sloth?


A reader at answers.com asked this question:
 "What does a sloth do?"

Here's how another reader responded:
"Sloths don't do much: they eat, sleep, walk (very slowly) and eventually find mates. They then reproduce and have babies..."

Not far from the truth! A sloth is one of the world's slowest creatures, moving at a rate of about 6 feet per minute at top speed! They sleep more than they're awake, and consequently have very slow metabolisms. Sloths rarely climb down from their trees. They eat, sleep. and give birth from one spot, reportedly leaving the tree only to relieve themselves occasionally. If it's raining, they'll even "go potty" from midair in the tree!

This sounds too much like a human sloth. When we allow it, we raise these in our own homes. Are you training up a sloth? Watch out for these warning signs:

1. They only work under pressure. "The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute." (Prov. 12:24) These are the types that heard what you said the first time and know what needs to be done, but they wait until there is a risk of punishment or loss of fun. Slothfulness is chased away by threats, but this is too much work for the parent and not enough for the child.

2. They won't finish what they've started. "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious." (Prov. 12:27) This child will start working, but finishing is too much work. If your child has a string of unfinished projects, or a habit of quitting in the middle of things, you may have a sloth in training.

3. They often complain about anything that requires an effort. "The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain." (Prov. 15:19) "Make the bed again? But why? I'm just going to sleep in it again tonight... " If your child whines about small tasks and you cave in, you are contributing to the delinquency of a slothful minor.

4. They look for ways to get out of working. "He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster." (Prov. 18:9) Is it time to eat? They're all there. Yard work? They disappear. If your child dodges work like it's a lethal bullet, a lot of your time will be spent doing what the sloth should be doing for himself.

5. They want rewards without labor. "The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labor." (Prov. 21:25) Dad has the "Hip National Bank" and Mom has the "Purse ATM." Both are supposed to provide instant cash, anytime day or night. If your child expects you to buy things that they could work to on their own, you are financing slothfulness. If you keep this up, expect to provide long-term financial assistance later in life as well. Faulty philosophy of a sloth: "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine."

6. They make excuses for not working. "The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets." (Prov. 22:13) The excuses can be anything from "I forgot that the book report was due" to "I put my homework on top of the van and it blew away!" If your child has more excuses than completed assignments, this is slothfulness wrapped in negligence.

7. They love the bed too much. "As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed." (Prov. 26:14) Staying up late is often part of this problem, but it shouldn't be rewarded with unlimited sleep-ins. If your child routinely sleeps past 10:00am, you may have a sloth in training (or your child may need to get to bed earlier).

Here's a homemade verse: "Train up a sloth in the way he wants to go, and when he is old, he won't move a muscle." Are you training up a sloth? Yelling won't fix this problem. Make some changes to your training, and you'll change the outcome. Slothfulness is a breakable habit. Break it early.

"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord..." (Rom. 12:11)

www.keeptheheart.com


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Date Your Spouse


"Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Prov. 5:18) The word "rejoice" in this verse means "to make glad." I think many couples are "rejoicing" on the wedding day, but the daily grind may cause some to go through a reduction in their gladness. Dating may help restore the joy.

When we were in premarital counseling, one piece of advice really stood out: "Go on regularly scheduled dates." I wondered why the counselor had to tell us something so obvious. It seemed to me that people who were already dating would keep up the practice with no problem at all, right?

And then we said, "I do," and we understood.

The dating habit that came so naturally during the courtship (for most couples) can evaporate faster than fog on a sunny day if we're not careful. Dating allows us to stay connected. It reminds me of what happens when the computer is sluggish and you have to restart it to "reboot" it. Rebooting causes the operating system of a computer to load again, and then it works better.

Dating is like a marriage "reboot" that helps a couples' operating system. So what do we do for dates?

  • Fancy restaurants make us feel robbed, so we save that for our anniversary once a year. And even then, we don't always do a fancy restaurant! In 2012, we decided that we both wanted gourmet bacon cheeseburgers! Total cost of this fancy date: $31.00.
  • Popcorn dates are my personal favorite. We go to a local popcorn shop and buy two bags of buttered popcorn. Then we drive to Post Road and park in the cell phone lot at the airport and watch the airplanes takeoff and land. Total cost of this date: $5.00. It could be done cheaper by bringing popcorn from home, but I want take-out popcorn when I'm on a date!
  • Sight-seeing is mostly free, unless you go to national parks, and even then the fees are usually reasonable. Of course, all the driving followed by walking or hiking stirs up an appetite, so expect to spring for snacks. We each had a big warm pretzel while walking around Seaport Village in San Diego. They scalped us because we were in a "tourist trap," but the pretzels were big enough to count as lunch. Total cost: $8.00. It would have been cheaper, but Norman just had to have the pepperoni pretzel. 
  • Long walks in pretty areas are also no charge, but it's nice if you walk to a location like a cafe or an ice cream shop, share a treat, then walk back. Cost varies, according to your treat, but you can surely  keep this kind of date under $10.00.
  • When our children were younger, we'd hire a sitter to spend the night so that we could drive 20 minutes into downtown Minneapolis once a year for an overnight stay in a nice hotel. In the morning, we'd stroll the shops, have lunch, and then head back home. If either of you travels for work, save those hotel points for these dates and you will only have the cost of  your meals. Otherwise, look for hotel deals online. Cost of this date: depends on your taste in hotels. Just beware of the one-star hotels. You may end up counting bugs instead of sheep.
  • Scenic drives are a great way to spend time together. You can stop at a park, and well, you know, park. Hey, married people have licenses for parking and smooching!
  • Go on a photo date and take lots of fun pictures together. If your husband will endure it, get matching jackets or sweatshirts for the pics. This will make a memories not only for you and your beloved, but if you have children, they will enjoy seeing a happy Dad and Mom captured in photos.You'll cherish these pictures over the years.
People often forget how to enjoy each other after spending years together. This can be remedied by keeping up the habit of dating. By the way, don't bring up gloomy discussions on your dates. It's okay to have "vision meetings," talking excitedly about future plans, but be careful not to end up making your hearts sad with heavy conversations during dates. Just rejoice in and with each other.

The word "rejoice" is also used in this verse: "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel." (Prov. 27:9) Here's some hearty counsel: Date your spouse.

"My beloved is mine, and I am his..." (Song of Sol. 2:16)

www.keeptheheart.com


Monday, October 29, 2012

Never Quit Because of Someone Else

It's going to happen eventually if it hasn't happened already: someone is going to irritate you, insult you, provoke you, infuriate you, or do something else that makes you feel like you're being run out of town on a rail! Don't fall for it. It's nothing more than the old enemy tactic of trying to get us to engage in "friendly fire." What a strange term. I can't figure out what's friendly about being fired upon!

What should you do when you want to run away from your church home because of a conflict with another person?

1. Don't. You do realize that all churches have people in them, right? When you find the First Baptist Church of No People, you haven't found a church. Stay in your church home. Too many people have left a good church in search of a better one, only to end up out of church all together. Let the Lord strengthen you by staying put. "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small." (Prov. 24:10)

2. Aim for restoration. If you know that you did something wrong, make it right. If you can't figure out what the problem is, give the person the benefit of the doubt and assume that God will work things out in due season. Stay pleasant and courteous until then, even if "then" is very far away. "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Prov. 16:20)

3. Forgive. Maybe it's you that needs to do some forgiving? Forgiveness is imitating Christ, so how Christ-like do you want to be? We run into problems when we think that a person has "run out of chances" to be forgiven by us.  "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Till seventy times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22)

Never quit  your church because of people problems. Forgive, drop it, love and stay put. Remind yourself that fellow church members are your church family, and we don't abandon family members. Put the weapons of anger down. There is no such thing as painless friendly fire.

"If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirst, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee." (Prov. 25:21-22)

www.keeptheheart.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There are No Perfect Days


You go to the doctor with a strange, gnawing pain in your abdomen. They run a battery of tests and tell you that "everything is normal." Good news, right? Except that you're still in pain. If it weren't for the pain, you'd be having a perfect day.

You drive to the Christian school to pick up your tribe of students. One of them is being escorted to the van by his teacher. "There's a note for you in his backpack," the teacher says with a tense look on her face. Up until that backpack with the naughty-note, you were having a perfect day.

You're anticipating a wonderful vacation, but the sky outside looks ominously gray. When you wake up in the morning, everything outside is buried under three feet of snow. The airport is closed, not to mention many of the major roads. Not a great way to start what was supposed to be a perfect day.

What is the definition of a "perfect day"? Is it a day free from trouble? There is no such day, so let's try writing a definition that is more realistic:

A PERFECTLY IMPERFECT DAY: A day of contentment, regardless of situations or circumstances.

Here are some "contentment quotes" to reinforce our need for this important character quality:
  • “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."--Martha Washington
  • “You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”--Charles H. Spurgeon
  • “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."--Jeremiah Burroughs
It is true that character, temperament and personality all have a profound effect on how we view life and how we react to our constantly-changing conditions and situations. It is also true that we will never have enough if we are constantly chasing "just one more thing." And we'll never find contentment in this life if we won't trust God to guide and direct us.

We never know from one moment to the next what God has in store for us, but we do know that He cares. Instead of seeing unplanned events as an enemy invasion, we could choose to view it as an insert from our heavenly Father, and we could aim to demonstrate an excellent spirit. If it's not okay with us for God to alter the course of our day, we're on the throne of self-direction. "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Phil. 4:11) If the Apostle Paul could master contentment, we can do it, too. There are no perfect days on this side of heaven. Nice days, but not perfect.

So are you having a perfectly imperfect day? Me, too. And it is well with my soul. How about yours?

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." (I Tim. 6:6-8)





Monday, October 22, 2012

An Excellent Spirit is Expensive


Daniel is one of my favorite people of the Bible. Just read his reputation: "Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm." (Dan. 6:3)

It's a blessing to have such a testimony. Imagine being so trustworthy, reliable, honest, and even-tempered that the king would feel comfortable handing you the keys to his kingdom. Having an "excellent spirit" means that Daniel worked hard to be a just and honest servant. His reputation impressed his leaders, but not his peers. "Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him." (Dan. 6:4)

What was their problem?

Envy.

Those envious peers wanted Daniel's position and prestige without having Daniel's character. And since they couldn't attain to his level of excellence (by their own choice), they arranged to have Daniel executed. But we know the rest of the story: Their plot failed and resulted in their deaths instead.

What can we learn from this story?

You will not be loved by everyone, even when you're living right. Accept it, and move on. Living right is its own reward, and when we give an account to God one day, may we stand with the likes of Daniel, unashamed of our efforts to be people with "an excellent spirit." 

As the songwriter Philip P. Bliss wrote, we should "dare to be a Daniel" in this life:
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.

I dare you. Dare to be a Daniel...or a Daniella. Leadership will appreciate you, and godly friends will cherish you, but those who struggle with envy and jealousy will not have you on their Christmas list.

"Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy?" (Prov. 27:4)



Friday, October 19, 2012

New Mommy is a New Normal

From a reader: I was wondering if you would consider doing a blog on being a New Mother? My Husband and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary in May and are expecting our first child on August 3rd. Any help and tips would be appreciated.

Well, by now this dear reader is, Lord willing, a new Mommy. Enter the world of New Normal. Here are some things that I wish someone had told me:

  • Kiss your sleep good-bye for five weeks per baby. That's how long it took the Taylorettes to learn night from day. Maybe other babies are different, but mine seemed to have an auto-detect system that alerted them when their Mom and Dad had settled into a good sleep. Their cries always reminded me of a cross between an alley cat whining and an engine that wouldn't start: ah rat ah rat ah rat raaaaahh. And then I'd poke Norman and say, "Your turn."

  • Nobody told me that they urped up like that. I had to wear a dress that was soaked with slime at the shoulder my first Sunday in church with our firstborn son, but I was ready the next time.

  • I didn't know that diapers could carry so much. Enough said. 

You asked for tips so I'll provide some suggestions, but I also hope that our readers will add their valuable comments at the bottom of this page for you as well:

1. Allow for an adjustment period. New Moms need to give themselves time to adjust to the role. We go to bed with a baby in our womb, then we come home from the hospital with a baby in our arms and life changes forever. It is a blessing, but one that comes with demands unmatched in any other role. Be patient with yourself as you learn how to handle your new responsibilities. And please get some rest whenever  you can.

2. Set your clocks five minutes fast. It's also a good idea to pad your time whenever getting ready to go somewhere. Babies have an uncanny way of needing to be changed minutes before going out the door, so if you are cutting yourself too close, you'll always be tardy. Don't start a habit that will become hard to break. Plan ahead by allowing more time. It's not the same as just getting yourself ready.

3. Don't put your budget underwater. "There is treasure to be desired, and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up." (Prov. 21:20) Be careful about buying things for a little person that is going to change by the minute. That huge bag of mega-blocks may get used for several years, while the cute little bubble lawn mower may not. Become an expert at finding used items for your child(ren).

4. Keep a clean home, but not a museum. Housework doesn't change much with a newborn, but a toddler can turn a living room into something that looks like an indoor state fair without the concessions (unless you count the Cheerios on the floor). Speaking of which, I just had a friend send me a note about how her son discovered that when you put Cheerios in a seed spreader, you can spread them all over the living room! Enjoy this time while your newborn can't handle a seed spreader! When your little one is older, train her to pick up after herself.

5. Finally and most importantly, read Scripture to your child. "The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him." (Prov. 23:24) You may have started this earlier, but if not, start now. And as soon as your sweetie pie can read, he or she needs a Bible and a daily reading assignment, preferably something simple like a Proverb verse per day, until their reading skills increase and then you can increase to a chapter per day. This will develop an appetite for the Word of God. 

A young mother recently asked me this question: "If you could only give me one piece of child-training advice, what would it be?" I thought about it for a moment, then answered, "Teach them to read their Bibles everyday." This is not a guarantee that your child will be godly. It increases the chances greatly, but all human beings have that item called "choice," which will be exercised early and often. The training is up to the parents; the application is up to the children. Our children can't apply something they've never learned, so the Word of God must be a first-choice in our training arsenal. "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding." (Prov. 4:5)

This is just a starter list, as you'll learn more "on the job." Make friends with some older, godly Moms in your circle and glean from them. Motherhood is not sainthood, and children are not angels, but God did call the "fruit of the womb" a "reward." There will be days when it doesn't seem rewarding, but even with the ups and downs, laughter and tears, the love of a mother for her children is beyond compare. 

Congratulations, and welcome to the ranks! Enjoy your new life as a new Mom.

"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." (Psa. 127:3)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Living on Less and Enjoying More

I love the "better is" verses in Scripture. These verses have a way of putting things into proper perspective. God clearly shows us that less can be more: "Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife." (Prov. 17:1)  

It really doesn't take a lot of money to comfortably exist, but we can talk ourselves into the mistaken notion that we need just one more thing. A modest income goes a long way in the hands of a prudent person. 

How can we make more out of less?

1. Ask yourself, "Do I need this?" If the answer is "no," postpone the purchase and pray about it. Maybe you'll decide that you don't want it at all. I have seven black skirts (a uniform staple). I saw another one while running errands recently, so I tried it on. It was sharp, but way overpriced for two side-seams and waistband. I told myself to "wait" because it wasn't a need. Besides, if that skirt makes it to the clearance racks, I'll like the price a whole lot more!

2. Will it improve your family's manner of living? When an item or goal is beneficial, it's worth saving up the money to purchase it. Start a fund called "New Bikes" or "Dishwasher," then begin adding money to it weekly or monthly. Keep at it, and you'll have the power that comes from purchasing with cash.

3. Is there another way to have good family fun? I used to love our homeschool field trips. Every autumn, we'd have our "Fall Leaf Walk" on the River Road in Minneapolis. Our children knew that it would include a trip to the doughnut shop on the way to River Road. Total cost of field trip: Under $5.00, even if someone got two items from the bakery (and that someone knows who he is).

4. Make a budget with that money. What money? The money called "income." A budget is a tool for bossing money around; not for bossing you around. If you routinely have "too much month at the end of the money," you're way overdue for a budget. My personal favorite is YNAB, and you can check it out here: http://www.youneedabudget.com/

5. Reducing expenses is the same as earning a part-time income. I called the garbage company a few years ago and told them to stop the service, because I was going with a lower-priced competitor. The customer service rep said, "We'll match the price." I asked this question: "If you could have done it cheaper, why didn't you?" I went ahead and switched and saved $120 per year.

It's your turn: How are you living with less yet enjoying it more? Leave a comment below and expand our "idea bank."

"Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right." (Prov. 16:8)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Great Pretender

A sister friend of mine asked this question in a note: "We all go through a lot in silence. Why is that? Why can't we share as moms and friends and Christians? I don't understand it..."

Some people are intensely private, choosing only to share things with a very small group of people. In other cases, some people are blessed with godly family members who are also excellent sounding boards for counsel. But I'm afraid that all too often, the more common reason is that we don't want people to know that we're struggling. Somewhere along the line, an unwritten rule was passed down that said, "Whatever you do, pretend that everything is all right."

Pretending that everything is all right when it's not is all wrong.

God sees things very differently than we see, and He endorsed getting godly counsel. Consider these verses:

"Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." (Prov. 11:14) Any good pilot will tell you that there are times when they need an extra pair of eyes (and even an extra  brain) in the cockpit for safety's sake. Counsel provides us with the insights of another godly person who can look at our situation with a fresh perspective.

"Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established." (Prov. 15:22) When we are going through something that has us stuck, spending time with a godly counselor can get our "tires out of the snowbank." The counselors are not there to tell you what to do; but they are God-provided assistants to help you sort out your options.

"A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength. For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." (Prov. 24:5-6) There is strength in wisdom, and that strength is exactly what we're seeking during challenging times of trial. Wise counsel enables us to see a way through our situation, helping us to map a plan to victory.

Here's a funny quote I saw online: "May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook."

I have a better idea: Let's quit pretending that life is great when it's not. Do you need some help? Ask for it.

"Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end." (Prov. 19:22)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Did You Hear That?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you suddenly lost the ability to hear? There are birds singing outside my window as I write this. Without the miracle of hearing, my world would not include songbirds. A description that I read on a website about the deaf said this: "It is similar to a goldfish bowl; always observing things going on..."

People who are hearing-impaired did not choose their lot in life. People who having hearing but won't heed have chosen to pretend that they are deaf. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22)

The intention to heed (to regard and observe) makes hearing worthwhile. A hearing ear is useless when it's attached to the body of one who won't heed. I often wonder what motivates a Pastor to continue writing and preaching sermons to so many ears that hear but won't do. My best guess is that these men of God love Him so much that they'll just keep preaching, even if only 10 out of 100 will actually follow the directions of Scripture.

Let's be a hearing minority: hearing and doing.

"The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise." (Prov. 15:31)

www.keeptheheart.com

Monday, October 15, 2012

God saw that...

Do we really believe that God can see us, or do we just say that we believe it? When a person knowingly lives in a way that displeases God, the lifestyle itself says "God can't see me." Or worse yet, the lifestyle is screaming, "I don't care if God can see me or not!" This is a hazardous and careless way to live, but it is more common than we'd care to admit. How's your secret life? Not so secret. It's a live-action drama in God's sight.

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." (Prov. 15:3)

www.keeptheheart.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Grudge is a Ball and Chain

Francie's definition of a "grudge": Allowing moldy old offenses to torment us while hoping that the offender will be tormented at least twice as much by our cold-shoulder payback.

Reality: When we hold a grudge, the other person sleeps well and we don't. Nobody has to drag these resentments around like a ball and chain. How can we unlock the shackles?

1. Forgive... You knew this one: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you..." (Matt. 6:14) Forgiveness is defined as follows: "The pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty. The forgiveness of enemies is a Christian duty." (Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary) When we forgive, we have agreed to call the offender "not guilty" anymore. It's the same thing that Christ did for us, only He did it a lot faster.

2. ...Or else! "...But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:15) This reminds me of when a basketball player shoots from the free-throw line and makes the basket, only to be disqualified because his toe was over the line. We are disqualified from the forgiveness that we seek when we won't grant it. We're not just over the line; we're also out of line! Bible Commentator Matthew Henry said it very well: "Those that would find mercy with God must show mercy to their brethren." Matthew 6:15 reads a lot like a threatening promise.

3. And while you're at it, P.O.A.T. "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression." (Prov. 19:11) If you've ever heard me teach at a conference, you've probably heard me turn "Pass Over A Transgression" into the acronym P.O.A.T. In this case, we are admitting to ourselves that we have been wronged, but we are choosing to forgive anyway. The hurt was real; not imagined, but we are freely granting forgiveness, just as it was granted to us.

Part of our problem with getting over grudges is that we have this uncanny ability to replay events in our minds, as often as we'd like. We can automatically recall a situation, how it hurt, and why. And then we can press the mental "replay" button and go through it all over again, usually making the offender seem more shameful, deceitful and scheming with each rerun of the episode. And don't even start with the 100 different ways we can imagine to "tell them off" if only we had another opportunity! In a sense, we're role-playing sin in our imaginations. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)

When we've been hurt or offended, it pays for us to turn things around and ask ourselves some questions:
1. Have I ever done something wrong to a person without any evil intent? (Yes.)
2. Is it possible that someone could accidentally hurt me? (Yes.)
3. Have I ever said something that was taken the wrong way? (Probably.)
4. Do I want to be forgiven when, not if, but when I've hurt someone? (Yes.)
5. Do I love people enough to pardon them? (Only you know the answer to this one.)

The ability to forgive is an indication of our love for others. Holding a grudge? It's a sign of a lack of love.  "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20) 

Grudges sure do take up a lot of emotional energy, don't they? Most pain is that way. And it doesn't matter if we think someone else is wrong; they can point that same gun at us and shoot their reasons. As the irritating saying goes, "Perception is reality." I may perceive that the other person is wrong, but it won't get me past their perception that I am the one in the wrong. 

Do you see how this could go on ad nauseum? We're like that unforgiving servant who was pardoned by his master, only to turn around and refuse to pardon one of his fellow servants. "But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest." (Matt. 18:28) Maybe we won't go so far as to grab someone by the neck and start shaking them around, but we're doing that emotionally when we won't forgive! And all the while, Christ is watching and wondering why we've forgotten what He did for us: "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? (Matt. 18:33) Our inability (or slow ability) to forgive is evidence that we are just as bad.

Fortunately, forgiveness is the key that unlocks the shackles to the ball and chain. "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."--Lewis B. Smedes 

Sounds like a great deal to me: Two are freed for the price of one forgiving. When it comes to grudges, the best way to shed them is to pardon the offender. How can you tell when the grudgefest is over? Let's look at one more quote from Lewis Smedes for a hint: "You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well." In other words, you granted forgiveness and recovered your spiritual sanity in the process.

There is comfort, victory and freedom in forgiveness that comes from the heart.

"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin agains me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22)



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is It Me or Is It Hormones?





 DISCLAIMER: This is not a medical article. There are gazillions of those online, and many of them are worth a read. These are observations and suggestions for women over 40 who have wondered, "Is it me, or is it my hormones?"

Women have a balancing act in life. We go from elementary school to moody in zero-to 60 seconds flat. I mean, there was no interlude; no transitional phase. Just BOOM! One day we woke up and felt like an ultra-crab and yet no one had done a thing to us. Or perhaps you weren't emotional in an aggressive way; you were more prone to crying jags and sessions where you wanted to run away and hide. Regardless, we must face the fact that hormones do affect us.

Decreasing hormones affect us even more!

Here are some symptoms proving that hormones go out with a bang:
(my comments are in parentheses)
  • Hot flashes (What an understatement. Sweat baths is more like it.)
  • Trouble sleeping (Call it what it is; Insomnia. We can take it.)
  • Emotional changes (Ooh and oh oh. Here comes Thelma Thundercloud. Run!)
  • Cognitive changes (Now where did I put those...)
  • Hair changes (Hair jumps off the scalp and pops out of the chin.)
  • Urinary tract and vaginal changes (No comment.)
  • Body changes (Hey! Who shrunk all my good clothes?)
"Complete List of Premenopausal Symptoms" by  Sandi Busch; March 6, 2011*; 
livestrong.com; http://www.livestrong.com/article/29526-complete-list-premenopausal-symptoms/

What can a woman do? For a medical perspective, see your doctor. For a sister's perspective, read on (Again, this is mainly for those who are over 40; younger women would be dealing with the hormones of PMS = Pass My Shotgun):

1. Spend more time in the Word. There may be days when it feels like you're going to need to break out a guitar and sing the blues, but this is not permanent. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." (Psa. 42:11; see also Psa. 42:5 and 43:5) God's Word is soothing, and we can count on Him to swing the pendulum back to the balanced center. The more time spent in the Word, the less extreme the hills and valleys of the emotions. You can skip this step if you choose, but you will be shortchanging yourself if you do. If nothing else is wrong in life and yet you're feeling overly emotional, it's likely due to hormones.

2. Accept the changes and work with them. The world is lying to us about aging. In fact, the "anti-aging" campaign is alive and well...and false! We know that the only way to avoid aging is to die, right? When someone is trying to sell you something to prevent something that is inevitable, they are clever, bald-faced crooks. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." (Prov. 16:31) Did your hair lose its color? Dye it if it makes you feel better, but don't believe for a second that there would be anything wrong with you if you didn't! 

Did your shape change in spite of proper diet and regular exercise? Go out and eat cheesecake in protest! Just kidding! Keep up your good habits and remember this: You have no idea what shape you'd be in if you hadn't taken such good care of yourself. My primary care physician told me this: "A woman has to under eat and increase her activity just to maintain her bodyweight after 40." Is this fact or fiction? Your body will tell you. Mine said "The doctor speaks truth." I work with my body by getting the most nutrition for the calories, getting regular exercise when possible, and by wearing clothes that fit. The size on the tag means nothing anymore. Fit is the principal thing. If you have no other unchecked medical problems, the changes are likely due to hormones.

3. Do not compare yourself with anyone. Looking around at other women is a great way to build insecurity. If that's your goal, keep studying others. If that's not the goal, just take care of yourself and stay out of the deep diet and health discussions with others. "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." (II Cor. 10:12) You are you. Why would you expect something that works for someone else to work in the exact same way for you? Don't compare, unless it's to your own mother. She is a fairly good indicator of what you can expect as life marches on in the hormonal realm. If your Mom went through what you're going through and it was her hormones, it's probably your hormones, too.

4. Get some rest or else. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." (Psa. 4:8) Hormonal women who don't get their rest become hormonal basket cases. Even if you've been able to push and shove your body around on four hours of sleep for years, it's nothing to brag about, and your family is probably worse off because of it. Hormones during certain stages of life, particularly during the pre-menopausal and early menopausal years, can cause us to lose sleep either through insomnia or repeated nightgown changes from night sweats. Too many nights without sleep and nobody's sweet anymore. Pray for rest, then get to bed early enough to have a good shot at getting some. If your life is too busy to allow you a good night's sleep, something needs rearranging somewhere. Insomnia may be due to hormones, but staying up too late sure isn't.

5. Quit piling stuff on your calendar. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psa. 90:12) Francie, this one goes for you, too. Yes, we may be tempted to blame hormones when we hear that tape recording in our head that says, "I never have any spare time." But in reality, this one isn't hormones. This one is a calendar management issue. Overbooking a hormonal woman can make things magnified times a thousand, but the cause wasn't the hormones. Do you really need to say "yes" to so many things? Simple answer: No. Overbooking is not a hormonal issue, but you sure can provoke yourself to make it look that way!

6. Pray before trying any treatments. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases..." (Psa. 103:2-3) Surely you've heard the old saying, "One man's meat is another man's poison." The same goes for various remedies! One woman will thrive have great success on 500 calories of lettuce, chicken breasts and hormone drops. Another will just be a hungry maniac in under 48 hours on the same regimen. 

One sister will claim that hormone replacement therapy "transformed her life"! Another will lament that all she got was a bloated belly, swollen breasts and an unexpected menstrual period (not a prize when you thought you were done with that). And yet another woman will say that you did it all wrong because you didn't do it all-naturally. $1,400 later, you could have taken a nice vacation with the money spent on the inventory of failed products in your closet. Be careful with recommendations from others. Every human body is unique, and what works for your friend may not work for you.

If you have been feeling emotionally drained, underfed yet overstuffed, tired even after sleeping, AND if you've seen a doctor lately and received a clean bill of health, it's probably not you; it's probably the decreasing hormones that begin to go down as our age goes up. Can we age gracefully? Yes. Can we enjoy the changes that come with "the change"? Not always. Will there be times when things just seem to overwhelm us. Absolutely.

And that's when you grab your Bible, get a cup of java or tea, close yourself into a quiet room, and pray. One of my favorite prayers has only four words: "Lord, please help me." And then He does.

Sometimes it's us; sometimes it's hormones.

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust." (Psa. 103:13-14)

 www.keeptheheart.com

*Keep the Heart does not endorse everything found at livestrong.com. The source was cited for crediting purposes only.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Helping Your College Student



My husband helped our oldest son Austen move onto the campus of Golden State Baptist College back in August of 2004. I can remember how Norman thought that having me there would add too much mothering to the scene, so they got a head start without "the Momerator" in town, and then Norman flew me out to go to church with on them Sunday.

I arrived on Saturday, just in time to note that Austen had already been to WalMart and had come back to campus without his shopping bags. He purchased his supplies, paid for them, and then promptly walked out of the store without his items! Surely this was a sign that he needed Mom, right?

Nope. He just needed to pay attention. And maybe he was experiencing the type of brain-freeze that happens when a person's circuits are overloaded with a new town, new bank account, new campus, new dorm room, new church, and more, all basically overnight. As much as I may have wanted think otherwise, this wasn't a sign that I needed to put on my cape and boots and fly in to do my Wonder Mom routine.

That Sunday, I was looking forward to sitting in church with our son, but he was already working on a bus route (the bus ministry is in his blood), so he came to say his farewells just before Sunday school. When Austen said goodbye, I started swallowing hard again and again, trying to keep the eyeball-washing-machine from kicking in. Just as I thought I had things under control, Chancellor-Pastor Trieber walked up to me with a big friendly smile and asked, "Well Mrs. Taylor, how are you doing?"

An innocent question activated the eyeball-washing-machine, plus the spin cycle! Brother Trieber didn't get a chance to see this because his very alert wife took one look at my face and knew what was happening. Faster than the spin cycle, Mrs. Cindie Trieber whisked me into a side room and patted my shoulder as I did some more swallowing in an effort to "turn the water off." (Cindie, I owe you a Jamba Juice for that rescue mission.)

That was the first college student. The second student, Hillary, was easier although I still cried. Our third-born, Collin was sent off with this advice: Stick by your brother and sister and don't miss your connecting flight. And back away from the debit card with your hands in the air...

Going to college now is almost ceremonial, complete with mothers clumped in campus parking lots, hugging their children and parting with tears (usually tears only from Mom). Since I know what it's like, I hope that these tips will help those of you that are doing this for the first time. Please remember that these are only suggestions and observations:

1. DON'T be a "smother mother" (also known as a "helicopter parent," always hovering around). Now is your chance to watch your bird fly on his or her own. This is when you get to see not only what they've learned, but what they own spiritually. "Keep my commandments and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye." (Prov. 7:2) If you're constantly checking up, offering unsolicited advice, monitoring the schedule and more, how will your young adult learn how to be an adult?

Calling once a week is just right for some, and too much for others. Discuss how often you'll keep in touch, but leave the schedule up to them. In other words, when your student has time, they'll call or you can call, but remember that they're in college; not off at day camp. Let your college student breathe (and get their work done).

2. DO teach financial basics, at least. "There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up." (Prov. 21:20) Every college student should know how to track their spending online, how to reconcile their account (I didn't say "checkbook" because college students rarely write checks anymore), and how to use a debit and/or credit card wisely. How will you know if they're operating in the black? Have a joint bank account (this isn't smothering; it's proactive wisdom). And read the bank statements. They're great conversation starters: "So son, I see you had $104 in pizza charges last month..."

This step is not necessary with older students attending college later in life, but 18-year-olds can squander cash faster than you can read this sentence! Establish an agreement about acceptable debit card usage in advance, and you'll only have to make suggestions along the way. Money mismanagement is a common problem among college students, and if the parents aren't "richdadandmom.com," it pays to be proactive by teaching the financial basics and laying down the ground rules before Little Caesar's Pizza (men) or the Shoe Carnival (ladies) gets a month's worth of your child's tuition money.

3. DON'T be the complaint hotline. "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men." (Titus 3:1-2) Two common reasons for emergency phone calls: Money problems or people problems. Okay, add a third: car problems.  If your college student calls home to complain, listen, then ask them this question: "Would you like me to help you solve this, or are you just venting?" It's kind of the equivalent to "Would you like a shot or a sugar pill for this ailment?"

There may be rules that are not favorites, assignments that test nerves, rude people, pilfering roommates, and cars that cough out a radiator, all within the first month! These events add to the learning process. I call it "Life Skills 102" (assuming that they learned "Life Skills 101" at home). Life is made up a combination of great days, not great days, and something in between. Ask your college student this classic question: "If you're not happy today, what day are you waiting for?" Encourage a pressing of the reset button, and discourage whining.

4. DO keep parenting. "My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother." (Prov. 6:20) There may be times when you'll need to step in and toss a life preserver to your young person. Things can go wrong, but if we'll remain calm, we can be helpful and a good example at the same time. The college student is still your child, but the dynamics of the parent-child relationship are undergoing a major transformation. Stay alert to needs, but encourage decision-making.

This is not the time to be slack in prayer, either. If you haven't already developed the habit of praying for your children daily, it's not too late to start! Parenting long-distance is a different kind of science, and we just aren't able to be as "hands-on" from miles away. This is actually a good thing, but it increases the need to pray for your child and for the unseen events of their day. Pray as if you were the only one calling their name before the Lord. This is vital. Each day has an unknown adventure included.

And now for some unnumbered observations:
  • Each of our children had a different response to heading off to Bible college. This is normal.
  • Our three children handled their finances three different ways. We kept the tightest eye on the biggest spender. 
  • We pointed out the obvious that an "A" costs the same as an "F."
  • Birthday boxes are a big deal on many campuses. If you're going to send one, send enough to share with the roommates who will likely be watching the "opening ceremony." 
  • A periodic note with five or ten dollars tucked in was our idea of a love-tap from home. We always reminded our children in these notes that we were praying for them daily.
  • Each of our children made mistakes in college. We advised them accordingly, but without making a federal case out of a life lesson. We remember our own college days...
  • If your child wants you to fly or drive out for a visit, try to make it happen. One of my favorite trips was to fly out and visit our daughter for a weekend. She needed some "Mom time."
  • If you haven't already started one, have a fund set aside in savings to "stop gaps." Finding a job during college may be challenging, so you may need to help your student now and then.
  • If your child runs into problems with the college administration, do not automatically assume that it is the fault of the college. Wait until you've heard the whole matter, and even then, encourage your young person to handle matters wisely on their own (Prov. 16:20 and Prov. 18:13).
  • Always remember this: College life is temporary (unless they join the staff after graduation)! Whatever goes on in this stage, it's just a few paragraphs in life.
Adjusting to this new phase of life is easier if you buddy-up with a sister who has already run this leg of the race. Have coffee with another Mom who has already sent her birds off to college. She may have even more to offer than I could fit in this article. The main thing to remember is this: life is a series of adventures, and this is just one more.

"Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge." (Prov. 23:12)

 NOTE: If you have "been here, done this," please add your helpful comments below. Mothers who are new at this will appreciate the feedback!

www.keeptheheart.com








Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Have You Allowed Facebook to Ruin Your Day?




"Social networking" is a term that didn't even exist prior to the mid-1990s. Social network sites (SNS) have now surpassed or even replaced previous forms of communication. Today's blog came about because I've spoken with several women who have been hurt by something they've read on the most popular SNS: Facebook. For the rest of this blog, we will refer to it as FB.

This is not an "anti-FB" tirade. I am a FB user, and without it, I've been told that readers would have taken much longer to find this website. So don't worry: I'm not going on a rant that will end in "Everybody Off Facebook Today!" I'm only asking you this: Have you allowed FB to ruin your day? 

 If so, you may be suffering from tool abuse. No, the tool didn't abuse you; you abused the tool. Tools don't sin; users do. When tools are used correctly, they help us. When tools are abused, it's like leaving an electric staple gun on the floor in a room full of toddlers: Somebody's going to get hurt. Here are a few ways that FB abuse could throw your day out of balance:

1. Reading a negative post. If you're reading things that are hurtful, don't be surprised if you get hurt! "A prudent man forseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished." (Prov. 22:3 and 27:12) If someone on your "news feed" is constantly posting things that are not beneficial, remove them from your news feed. Here's how: http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=218728138156311&ref_query=news And if you're roaming around reading pages that are known for negativity, you can expect to feel like you've been rolling in the dirt.

2. Frittering your day away. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psa. 90:12) It's not fair to your family for  you to spend two or three hours on and off FB, while the house goes to seed, projects fall behind and your real live family can't converse with you because you're busy updating your "status" with the details of what you had for lunch! If you feel like you don't have enough time to get things done, maybe your FB visits need a time limit.

3. Getting into online debates (or arguments). "Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame." (Prov. 25:9) One idle comment can cause a cyberspace nuclear war! It would be better to let the other person have the last word than to go back and forth with someone who is not even in the same room with you. There must be someone in your own time zone that you can have a good quarrel with before sundown.

Many people use FB regularly without any problems, and if you're one in those ranks, bravo! This blog was devoted to those who have fallen into the FB traps listed above. If you've ever been upset by a FB post, reduce the chances of this happening by being more selective. What you don't read can't hurt you.

"The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going." (Prov. 14:15)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Little Birdie Told Me

Has anyone ever told you something that you didn't need to know and would have preferred not to hear? If so, you've been hit by the GR: Gossip Reporter.These reporters live for a "scoop," and pride themselves on being "in the know." Is this a good practice? Not according to Scripture. Consider these problems with being a "GR," also known as a "talebearer:"

1. The GR is betraying someone. "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter." (Prov. 11:13) It's becoming more and more difficult to find a trustworthy person. In matters of an extremely private nature, the GR is not a good counselor. You may find that your personal information has been "leaked," adding a new layer of problems to your situation. Due to a lack of character, the GR just can't keep a confidence.

2. The GR is stirring up trouble. "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth." (Prov. 26:20) Bad news travels faster these days, thanks to computers, smartphones and other hand-held devices. People can even hide behind fictitious names, keeping their identity a secret while revealing secrets. These birds are really big chickens.

3. The GR is hurting people. "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." (Prov. 18:8 and 26:22) Telling things to people who are not part of the problem nor part of the solution is flat-out gossiping. Unfortunately, there will be disgraceful or shameful events in life, but we don't have to provide the gory details. A desire to repeat information that has nothing to do with us is morbidly twisted, and brings untold pain to the hearers.

4. The GR will give an account to God. "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord." (Levit. 19:16) When God says not to do something but we do it anyway, a chastening is coming. The GR has a countdown clock ticking, and payday is on the way.

This is a very hazardous area, and if you have been a GR, you are reading this so that you can confess, repent and forsake this bad habit. Gossip Reporters are not only hurting others, but they are also providing a poor example for any young people who are listening and observing. Here's the faulty message we send when we gossip in their earshot: "When you grow up, you can gossip just like I do."

The next time a GR comes flitting up to your shoulder and starts sowing the latest weed seeds with a "Did you hear about..." introduction, interrupt the flow of words with this sentence: "I don't need to know." Then change the subject. You will be removed from the "callling list" of the little birdie, and you'll be protecting your spirit from becoming a garbage dump for gossip. There are some things in life that we are better off never knowing. Don't we all have enough problems of our own?

"He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips." 
(Prov. 20:19)



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Cool Head or a Hot Head?


Are you Mrs. Hot Head?




"A cool head and a warm heart is an 
admirable composition."
--Matthew Henry, Bible commentator






How would those closest to you describe you: As a cool-head or a hot-head? Are you calm in the face of unexpected events, or do you blow up all over people and just expect them to take it? Do your responses lean more towards over-reactions? Is it a scary thing to live with you? We need to be reminded now and then that God is watching, listening, and even knows why we're behaving as we do. Where did these hot-headed reactions come from?

They're UDCs: Unresolved Daily Conflicts. As we allow the seeds of UDCs to pile up on the soil of our hearts, all it takes is for someone to come along and hurt us again, watering these old seeds and causing them to spring forth into a bitter, reactionary crop. Nobody is angry over nothing; there's a root cause underground somewhere, and it needs to be unearthed, examined and dealt with appropriately. This takes time and patience, but it's worth the effort. What's eating you that is causing you to chew on others? Get to the bottom of it.

 The world would have us believe that we have "anger management issues," but when you take the word "anger" and pair it with the word "management," you have the old Sesame Street song coming to life: "One of these things just doesn't belong here." A more accurate phrase would be "anger expression issues." We have not learned how to appropriately express or rule over our anger. And so we end up hot, bothered and ready to blow! "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth over his spirit than he that taketh a city." (Prov. 16:32)

We wouldn't have so many UDCs if we'd just handle matters wisely and not let old hurts pile up.  Granted, some conflicts may never be fully resolved on this side of heaven, but we can still choose to forgive and move on. "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Prov. 16:20) What does this mean? It means that we'll seek the Lord in prayer for wisdom in handling difficult people problems, rather than allowing them to sit and cause us to stew.

Do you have pain clenched in the fist of your heart? Don't embrace old hurts like they're dear friends! Let them go.

And if you've exploded in anger recently, go and make things right. People are fragile. Don't you just hate it when someone is insensitive towards you? All right then. Other people feel the same way, so go and apologize. Then ask the Lord in prayer to help you learn how to properly express your frustrations so that others won't get hurt just because you're hurting. Treat people like it's the last interaction you'll have with them on this side of heaven.

"He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exhalteth folly." (Prov. 14:29)


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Envy Problems


ENVY: To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account. (Webter's 1828 Online Dictionary)


Do you struggle with envy? Take this little ENVY-test to determine if you have this problem:

1. You are territorial with your friendships. If a friend is paying too much attention to someone other than you, it makes you feel threatened or even angry. 

2. You say negative things about people or their work. By trying to make others look inferior, you feel superior. Criticizing the work of others usually stems from insecurity rooted in envy.

3. You treat people as "suspects" until you have decided that they're "safe." In your point of view, "safe" means they are no threat to your current relationships.

4. You resent others when they are selected for positions that you want for yourself. You have thoughts like this: "Why did they pick her? I could do a better job!"

5. You are rarely happy when someone else has something good happening in their life. Whether it's a new car or a new position, you just can't seem to rejoice with others when they are blessed.

Envy is a joy-robber. It causes a person to become hyper-focused on the lives of others, leading to multiple people problems. Nobody has to live like that. Are you struggling with the "green-eyed monster" called envy? Consider these verses carefully:

"A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones." (Prov. 14:30) God is giving us a choice in this word-picture: We can either have our sanity in the form of a "sound heart," or be sick to our stomachs with the constant discontentment of envy. 

"Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" (Prov. 27:4) Envy is so repellant that it makes a person next to impossible to be around. Scripture tells us it is worse than being around an angry person! Envy is also visible, because not many people are able to hide their dislike for others very well.

"But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming." (Acts 13:45) If we allow envy to take root in our hearts, we eventually become paranoid, imagining that people are taking things from us that don't even belong to us. Over time, envy becomes so consuming that a person trapped in this perilous snare begins to see almost everyone as "the competition."

"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." (Titus 3:3) In the bad old days before we were saved, envy was just another part of our operating system. We didn't see anything wrong with petty rivalries, and even today, the world encourages the "every man for himself" mentality. This didn't work when we were unsaved, and it is even less effective after salvation.

Envy does nothing for us, but it does plenty to us! Envy keeps us from enjoying relationships that God has given us, and can even cause us to hurt others with our selfish immaturity. Why live like this when we can live in freedom? If you've been struggling with envy, confess it as sin, repent and forsake it. Envy is not doing you any favors, but it is causing you to live a flawed existence wrapped up in fear and self-inflicted grief. 

Envy is selfishness wrapped in pride, hidden behind a flimsy wall of insecurity. We will never grow up as long as we allow ourselves to stay in the sandbox of envy, clutching our fears like toys.

"Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Gal. 5:26)



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