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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 …

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 damse…

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 h…

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 tribu…

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" i…

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 f…

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…

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 could…

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 …

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 …

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 p…

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 preac…

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

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 t…

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 …

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 ca…

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 roo…

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 …

A Cool Head or a 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…

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 …