Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Little pieces of broken glass, part one

I had the craziest fluke of an accident while traveling to teach. I stepped on something in my hotel room and it went through my "sleeper socks" and imbedded itself deep into the heel of my right foot! Now when you consider that some of the thickest skin on the human body is found on the hands and feet, it's not exactly an easy area to penetrate. The fact that I didn't see anything on the floor meant that I stepped down with full force, walking normally until I felt the sharp object penetrating my sock and my skin in one quick shot!

"Aaaaeeeeeee!" I screamed at great-day-in-the morning! I felt sort of sorry for any floor mates on either side of my room, because my scream would have made a scary alarm clock! Skin has nerve endings that tell us when we've been touched. My skin had been more than touched; it had been pierced, and I found out that morning that a little invisible sharp object can really, really cause a lot of pain!

Enter the tough girl: I got out my travel first aid kit and went to work. I propped my heel up backwards against the sink, then turned and awkwardly tried to fish around in the bloody little hole with a safety pin dipped in antibacterial ointment. No go. When I stepped down from my crude attempt at surgery, I could still feel the sharp pain of "something in there." End of tough girl routine. Time to pray.

I sat on the edge of the hotel bed and reminded the Lord that I was scheduled to teach five times, that I already had a terrible cold, and now this. And He reminded me that I was going to have a fantastic trip because I was weakened by these complaints. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (II Cor. 12:9)

And it was a great conference! I had such a wonderful time teaching, blowing my nose, coughing, and walking on the ball of my right foot! I'm not joking! It was a powerful time, as I experienced God's strength which was indeed made "perfect in weakness." Sometimes, we all need a fresh dose of weakness to really experience God's grace and strength. When was the last time you "gloried" in your infirmity?

The down side to this story is that I didn't get the foot checked out right away when I got home. In fact, I didn't even tell the dear people at the ladies’ retreat that I had this unidentified object in my foot. I didn't want it to be a distraction (on top of the head cold that I couldn’t hide). Once I got home, I had several reasons for delaying a trip to the doctor's office, including the fact that I thought it might "work its way out" over the next several days (skin does continue to grow and shed, you know). Since I had mastered walking with one heel slightly elevated inside my shoe, I thought I could tough this out until the skin layer with the "thing" in it worked its way  down and out...I hoped.

Well, this couldn't last. I walk fast and I am forgetful, too. So I was at the grocery store and forgot to keep my heel up. I stepped down normally and felt a strong jab in my foot, and that's when I realized that I'd better get this checked out after all. An x-ray at the podiatrist's office confirmed that I had either glass or metal deep in my heel, and surgery would be the only way to remove it. A week later, I as I was being hooked up to an IV while waiting for surgery, I said to my Norman, "A little thing has sure become a big deal, hasn't it?"

And that's the second parallel to this story: When we allow harmful little things to go unchecked, they may cause more damage over time.  "Little pieces of broken glass" continues in part two later this week...

"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts." (Prov. 21:2)

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Monday, February 27, 2012

What's Your Problem?

My husband Norman used to ask our children this question when they were acting grumpy or otherwise out of sorts: "What's your problem?" And he expected them to answer so that he could help them find a suitable solution. He was like Doctor Dad.

Doctors begin the process of diagnosis by asking questions, often followed by ordering tests to examine things in greater detail. God's Word diagnoses, examines and provides remedies, if we'll be hearers and doers of the Word. It's very common today for people to complain to the Lord in prayer while never allowing Him to get to the bottom of their complaint. That’s like going to the doctor, listing your ailments, and then saying, “I don’t want you to help me. I just want you to listen to me whine.”

What's your problem? Could it be one of these areas?
1. Are you spiritually stubborn? Are you crying and crying out to God in prayer, but claiming that He isn't hearing your prayers? Have you ever considered that it might be your lifestyle? "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me..." (Psa. 66:18) When we won't follow God's directions for living, we deserve the response found in Prov. 1:26: "I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." When God gives us instructions from His Word, they are meant to be followed; not merely considered like a list of options on a restaurant menu.

2. Are you secretly sinning on purpose? The secret life of every Christian is no more secret than a movie on a big screen in God's sight. He sees us every day, all day, and all night. He has the ability to know the heart from the inside out. Thoughts, motives, and actions are all open to His knowledge. "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." (Psa. 90:8) Secret sins have a way of exploding all over the secret-keepers. It's just a matter of time.

3. Are you watching things that are wicked? It doesn't matter how you watch, or on what type of device; it matters what you're allowing into your eye-gates. Things that enter the precious portals called "eyes" have direct access to the heart and mind. You would think that knowing we don't have a "delete key" for the mind’s contents would compel us to be more selective. "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I have the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." (Psa. 101:3) When Jesus returns one day, what will He catch you watching?

4. Are you unthankful? Are you only happy when God is doing something for you? Are you unable to praise Him when He allows a few rocks into your stream of life? Fair-weather Christians never thank God for trials, because they’re too immature to see the purpose. Some of the greatest blessings in life come wrapped in packages labeled “Trials, Adversity, and Affliction.” Are you mistaking your blessings as curses? "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (I Thess. 5:18) Analyze your gratitude. If you haven't thanked the Lord lately for the situations that you don't like, pay your thanks-bill now.

5. Have you forsaken God? This never worked for anyone in the Bible, so I don't know why we think it would work for us now. When the people had gone against God's laws in II Chronicles 24:20, the prophet Zechariah delivered a stern message: "Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you." Have you departed from the things that you know are right? Have you been neglecting your personal time with the Lord? Is your Bible just a prop in your life? Expecting God to bless you for forsaking Him is like expecting to be paid for being absent from work.

You may have other issues, but these are five common problem areas for Christians that could easily hinder us. What's your problem? Be honest with the Great Physician. Ask the Lord to give you wide-open eyes, and once He reveals the source of your problem, yield to Him with your whole heart.

" With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let know wander from thy commandments." (Psa. 119:10)

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Who wants to be a lovely empty box?

"Beware of misapplying your energies; be careful to begin in the right place."--C.H. Spurgeon, from his sermon on "The Great Reservoir" of the heart (Prov. 4:23)

If you are training your young people by hyper-focusing on the externals while neglecting the heart, you are "misapplying your energies," and you won't like the end result. A person who can put on a good public show while covering up a sin-filled private life is like my Grandma Bubbie used to say: "Pretty package; nothing inside."

Obviously, we have to keep externals in line because man can only see the "outward appearance," but we need to give more effort and energy to the part that God can see: the heart. We who are parents will find ourselves in the prime of our Christian lives just in time to witness the slow decline in the lives of our young adults if we’re not more conscientious about matters of the heart.

This is the "looks" generation. You can be looking good but doing ugly and people will praise you for getting it half-wrong! The sad thing is, the appearance won't last. Well behaved children who are trained to look good without actually developing the right heart may get all the "merit awards" in school, but they are being set up for a colossal fall one day. Misplaced goals result in disappointing outcomes.

Are you tired of seeing young people walk away from God after moving the tassel on their graduation caps? If so, you're must purposely teach your child give God his heart. And this goes for any parent training children, regardless of where the children are getting their education. You may have the best "Yes ma'am, Yes Sir" puppets on the planet, and they may be impressive for a while, but they'll be a source of depression if you never get around to focusing on the heart.

Many of us know parents who did an exceptionally good job training their children, only to have a child do something disappointing later in life. If you're that parent, you did your best. Don't blame yourself for choices that you didn't make. On the other hand, those of us who "missed a spot" or more in the training process need to accept the fact that some of the things we may not like are side effects from training errors. I am that kind of parent. Still, I am also the kind of parent who is willing to work hard to increase the chances of success while trusting the Lord for the long-term outcome. Temporary setbacks do not have to become permanent lifestyles. When God has the heart, great changes can take place!

How do we help our young people with their hearts? Start young. Read Scripture to your children, yes, even while they're in the womb. Then read it to them daily, even if it's only a few verses, until they can read on their own. Once they are reading, make Bible reading a regular part of their day, like tooth-brushing, only far more important! "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psa. 119:11) The Word of God memorized becomes the Word of God hidden in the heart. Teach your children to read, memorize and meditate on (ponder and consider) God's Word. 

Once you've established this habit, don't mess up your work by allowing unlimited access to the media. Become an avid screener! Check things out before you allow your precious loved ones to plunk down in front of something that may train them to turn away from God! If more people would "edit" what's coming into their homes via the numerous electronic devices today, there would be less pollution entering the minds of the residents. "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." (Psa. 101:3)

If your child is already past the early training stages, make daily Bible reading a house rule. If their feet are still under your dining room table, your rules are still in force. Don't worry that you're "making them do it." No one was ever harmed from daily Bible reading, but many have been destroyed by trying to live without it. It's never too late to start a Bible reading habit.

 If you don't like what you're seeing in the spiritual growth and development of your young person, maybe it's time for a change strategy. Expecting a young person to walk with God in this world while repeatedly immersing their minds in the popular media is like expecting an alcoholic to stay sober while living in a bar! Clean out the clutter of  media influences, magnify the Lord and His Word in your home, and then watch God go to work from the inside out. God always starts with the heart, because God doesn't "misapply His energies."

And while we’re on this topic, does God even have your heart? If not, start with your own heart first. Just as the flight attendant says in the safety instructions on the plane: "If oxygen masks appear, put on your own mask first before assisting others." We need more parents who have hearts for the Lord. Maybe then we'll see reproduction of the right kind.

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Prov. 4:23

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No wonder we have image issues

I was in the bookstore recently, and these were some actual cover lines on women's magazines:

"Burn 300 Calories in 22 Minutes!"

"Sexy Legs Now!"

"How to Fake Perfect Skin!" (Oh, I already know this one. It's one of my mottos: "Little powder, little paint; make a woman what she ain't!" Duh!)

"The Pill That Can Make You Look Younger!"

"Great Hair Everyday!"

An ad writer is sitting at a desk spinning these tall tales, hoping to make the cover of the next issue of "Selfish" magazine. I can just imagine the writer, sitting there in a cubicle with a few family pictures push-pinned to the fabric wall of his or her cube-office, writing empty, vacant, and delusional promises for you and me.

Why do women buy these magazines? Is it because they're thinking that maybe "this time, it will really work"? Or is it because the increasingly clever marketing moguls have figured out how trick women into buying things that promise improvements but deliver nothing more than mounting insecurity?

The only thing dumber than believing a lie is paying for it.

Let's contrast these empty promises with God's REAL DEAL:
"Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." (Prov. 31:30)

God sees differently than we see. He has "inner vision," while ours is limited to the externals. A woman can't get the fear of the Lord from a bottle on a beauty store shelf. Cultivating godliness is something that only comes from spending time around the Person whose name is in the first part of the word: God. Godliness comes from time with God.

Cultural pressures to look like someone we're not are indeed effective for manufacturers of potions, lotions and other notions, as it keeps us in pursuit of something unattainable, while somebody becomes very wealthy simply by keeping us feeling hopelessly flawed. When it comes to hair, skin, nails, and even the body, much of it is what it is. This doesn't mean you shouldn't take care of yourself; it just means that taking care of yourself shouldn't become an obsession.

And when it comes to aging, we virtually have no control over the process! You will go to bed 20 and wake up 83 one day, if the Lord gives you so many years! We are becoming such  frantic creatures that there are actually women saying that they would rather die young than get old! It's time for a monumental change in focus.

Instead of looking at the outward appearance and comparing it to others, or worse, to the images promoted in the media today, look at the Word and work on matching your image to what God values. You can only be a physical beauty for a season, but you can be godly for the rest of your life. And that's real beauty.

"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his statue; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth: for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21, 2012: Today is my birthday

It's my birthday, and I've given myself permission to start it totally in slow motion. So, first I shuffled into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, saw my hair standing up in the "touchdown!" position, looked up and said, "Thank you for my birthday, Lord." I don't think He minds the hair.

Then I went to the kitchen and poured myself a good cup of decaf Mocha from Gevalia coffee. No Teeccino today. Teeccino is very good, but on a celebration day, I have to break out the decaf Mocha Java. Why decaf? Because the nutritionist said that it's better for my heart and my worn-out adrenal glands. That's another blog.

Then I cut up a Granny Smith apple into some vanilla Greek yogurt, added a tablespoon of ground flax and two tablespoons of granola, stirred and put the whole feast on my breakfast tray. Headed to the den for my daily closed-door session with my Lord.

After some prayer time, I opened His Word (I like to have my physical food with my spiritual food), and allowed my mind to think on what I was reading. Guess what verse showed up in my reading today? Nehemiah 8:10, and I'm not making this up!

"Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Eureka! What a birthday note! Permission from heaven to go out and “eat the fat and drink the sweet” on my birthday! I've got to hurry up here so that I can go out and obey these instructions!

After finishing my reading in Nehemiah, I went on to read my Proverb chapter for the day. I have many verses that I like in Prov. 21, because it is my "birthday chapter." Here's one of my favorites:

"The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of everyone that is hasty only to want." (Prov. 21:5)

I have learned that it pays to slow down when making plans, to allow time to be sure that I'm on track with what God wants for my life. That's one of the reasons why it took us so long to get this website online; we were still praying it out. And Norman and I like to avoid being "hasty" about anything in general. It's just too risky to rush things that don't need a rush job!

Well, it's time for me to go out and "eat the fat and drink the sweet." And I'm thanking God for giving me year number 54 of life. Of these 54 years, 35 of them have been as a Christian, since I was saved at age 19. Thank you for all the birthday well wishes on Facebook and by snail mail. I will obey your notes, and will enjoy my 35th/54th birthday. Keep the heart, sisters.
Prov. 4:23

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Secret Life of Lust

People are doing lots of things behind our backs these days, but they aren't doing anything behind God's back. It's impossible to hide anything from God! We may be absolutely floored when we hear of some shockingly wicked event, terrible news or other catastrophe, but rest assured that God is not up in heaven saying, "Can you believe what they just did?"

I've taught on this many times, but it bears repeating: The secret life is not so secret. Consider what the Lord says about this topic as proof:

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

God is everywhere and sees everything, so who are we kidding and what are we trying to hide?

"For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings." (Prov. 5:21)

So here we have this all-knowing, all-seeing God, and we're still living every-which-way-but-loose? God even knows our motivation for what we do, which is often summed up in a word: selfishness.

When a teen couple goes behind their parents' backs and gets involved in immorality, they aren’t being driven by love; they’re driven by passionate, youthful lust. Lust is selfish.

When a man or woman gets entangled in adultery, it's not because they've found a "new love." It's because they fell for an old lust. Lust is selfish.

When a man logs onto a computer to look at pornographic images, it's not because he wants to stir up more love for his own wife; it's because he's lusting after another woman (and an airbrushed, computer-enhanced electronic one at that)! Lust is selfish.

Why do people choose a life of lust over a life of love? Well, there are individual reasons, but a collective reason is this: there is pleasure in sin...for a season. Interestingly enough, the word "pleasure" and "lust" are interchangeable in James 4:3: "Ye ask, and receive not, because y ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (pleasures)."  Lust is limited. It cannot fulfill, because it is insufficient and unacceptable to God. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by our passions, we will never be satisfied.

 Lust takes while love always gives. Lust destroys while love builds. Have you been secretly engaging in a life of lust? If so, expect your enjoyment to be short-lived. And like any other sin, you can't afford the high price tag, but you bought it and there are no exchanges or returns, so you're going to be stuck with your purchase.

"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14)

People are such big pretenders today! Pretending to love when they are lusting, pretending to care when they are careless; and worst of all, pretending to be the victim when they are the perpetrator! God challenges us to own up to who we are and what we're doing. God didn't say that we're tempted when we're drawn away by other people's actions; he said that it's our "own lust" that does us in!

"Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth for sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." (Jas. 1:15)

Have you ever carefully read the warning on the back of a box of something poisonous, like rodent killer? This phrase is usually in the list of warnings: "Harmful or fatal if swallowed." This is what lust does to us. If we swallow the lie and eat the bait, we're going to be maimed, killed or otherwise destroyed. Is lust really worth the destruction it yields?

We have a real enemy in this life, and if we think we're such big shots that we're not vulnerable to attack, we're deluded. God was very picturesque with this verse: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (I Pet. 5:8)

When Christians fail to take this warning seriously, they get eaten!

Typical lie: "Oh, I can do this. It won't hurt me, and besides, I can quit anytime I want."

Adversary’s response: “Roar! Gulp.” And then the devil licks his chops and moves on to the next simpleton-victim.

If you've been engaging in some type of secret sin, confess it, forsake it, stop it now and don't look back. Make yourself accountable to someone by joining a good recovery group such as Reformers Unanimous, or by confiding in a godly sister to pray with you as you regain the ground that you gave away. (I'm assuming that this blog is being read mainly and mostly by women.) Don't take another step into the land of lust.

How's your secret life? If it's something that you think would make God ashamed, remember this: He already knows.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The wrong kind of fear is such a drain

Consider this quote carefully:
"God incarnate is the end of fear, and the heart that realizes that He is in the midst will be quiet in the middle of alarm"--F. B. Meyer

Have you ever worn yourself out worrying about something? Worry is the gas in fear's tank. If you are worried, you are afraid of something. The wrong kind of fear can be so draining.

One of the best things that happened to us was my husband's job loss in March of 2011. I was out in Santa Clara, CA guest-teaching at Golden State Baptist College. My Norman woke up that morning in MN and went to work like every other day for the past 21 years at the same company. This day would be different. He was called into a special meeting. Since he knew the meeting was coming, he had time to text me to pray for him:

"Special meeting today. Pray."

When I saw this message in my phone, I sat down right where I was and prayed. Then I went and taught my class. Of course, my mind started the fear game right away. "What if he gets his pink slip? What will we do? How will we manage without his job?" Fearful Francie went into full-tilt worrying. Now I had another reason to hate text-messaging; you could get bad news in advance!

In my fretful mind, I had already forgotten the precepts, principles and promises from God's Word. I was now firmly planted in my own boat, out on the stormy sea of my fearful imagination. I was well qualified to hear the same words the disciples heard when they were on a ship in the midst of the stormy sea: "...Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4:40)

It was time for some faith-muscle-building, and we were being shoved into the spiritual gym of life for a hard workout. We had gotten comfortable and spiritually a bit flabby, and it was time to shape us up. Blessings often come disguised as trials, adversity or affliction. This was a good thing wrapped in a bad-looking package!

After flying home the next day, I could immediately tell that I was going to have to process my fear in private. A man who has been let go after 21 years of loyal service has his own fish to fry, and doesn't need his wife having a meltdown at that moment. So I determined to keep my chin up around my Norman, and then I'd let my chin down around the Lord. God would understand, and it wouldn't even bother Him if I had a lot of questions, as long as I was willing to wait for the answers.

First, I had to have a good girl cry. Whoever wrote the song, "Big Girls Don't Cry" was on strong cold medicine or something. Yes we do cry, and sometimes, those tears are like one woman called it: "God's washing machine for the heart." So, I took a long drive the long way to Aldi for groceries, and then I got myself settled down before going back home to sit down with my beloved and ask him, "Honey, what are we going to do?" As I looked into his eyes, I could tell that while he was disappointed at the job loss, he wasn't afraid at all. No fear.

I decided from that moment on, I'd copy Norman. He was "steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord." In other words, my Norman was a godly example of "no fear." We were still serving full-throttle in the ministry. We still tithed, gave love offerings and other gifts. There was food on the table, clothing on our backs and a roof over our heads. This was being done off a shrinking bank account (the estimate that you need six months of emergency funds in savings is a bit on the low side), but Norman said we would march on by faith and keep things as normal as possible. He was right.

Not one bill was paid late. In fact, we paid some things off during that time (out of good fear)! When your money is low, you have two choices; make debt or cut spending. Making debt is fearful and faithless. Debt says, "I don't trust my God that much." Cutting back in areas where we didn't realize we could cut allowed us to keep the situation from becoming worse.

I could make a full-page list of all the fears that I had that never came to pass. Not one of them. So why did I default to the fear mode? Because I'm just like those human disciples in the boat: I had forgotten how mighty my God is, even though I walk with Him every day of my life. "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mark 4:39)

We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of that job loss. Norman has a job, but not in his former field. We may do a lot of things differently from now on because of that job loss, but what we learned from it will benefit us for the rest of our lives. Things like how to save money, how to cut the grocery bill (kick out the big eaters--just kidding), the value of living on a budget, and of course, the importance of keeping up on the tithes, offerings and other giving.

We learned that and so much more. In fact, there would be times when it felt like God was sending us love letters just to remind us of his ability to supply. Case in point: A couple of weeks after I returned home from teaching a ladies' conference,I received a letter in the mail like this: "We came in under our budget for our ladies' conference, so we are sending the difference to you. God bless you!" A check tumbled out of that letter for $200. ONLY God can special-order blessings like that!

Things are different now. We will have to refigure and figure again before this is all over. And in this economy, it may never be over, but God used the loss to teach us to trust Him more. Trust conquers fear like food conquers hunger. Have you been fearful lately? Face those fears and give them all to the Lord in prayer. Let God teach you to trust Him more.

Fear is such a drain, unless it's the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord gives us wisdom; the fear of life's circumstances robs us of joy and valuable energy.

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes." Psa. 119:71

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Drippy Harps, part three-The Angry Woman

Women have a tendency to be angry "around" an issue rather than getting to the heart of the matter. It's a lot like when  person is on a diet and she wants chocolate cake, but she eats carrots because she wants to "be good." When we allow unresolved conflicts to pile up in our lives, we're like that unsatisfied dieter; eventually, we're going to go crazy and eat the whole chocolate cake...or eat a person alive!

"It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman." (Prov 21:19)

Have you ever wondered what this woman was angry about? Could it be that she had a hurt from her past that never got handled correctly? Scripture doesn't tell us why she was angry, but an easy guess would tell you that it involved some offense committed by another person, and it probably happened a while ago. When we're miffed and steaming about something that happened to us way back in history, there is a risk that we may take it out on people in the present.

Unresolved conflicts are like festering wounds; they won't go away without attention. I had a finger infection from a cut that I got working in the garden several years ago and I tried to ignore it. It's just a finger cut, right? Wrong. Finally, when my finger turned greenish-brown, I knew that I'd better let the doctor take a look at it. She gave a really good diagnosis: "Oh yuck!" Then she sent me to a hand doctor.

Small things have a way of growing into great, big ugly deals.

The hand specialist was just as impressed with my finger as my primary doctor, so after his diagnosis of "Oh, that's pretty gross," he wanted to know what took me so long to get in and have it checked. "You could have lost a finger," he scolded. I didn't realize it had gotten that bad, but then, I was trying to ignore it.

Too many people wait until their relationships are on auto-destruct before admitting that they need help. This is pointless, tragic and sad. Have you noticed that ignoring pain doesn't make it go away? Are you stuck in a continuous loop of anger, and are you risking your relationships because of it?

Ultimately, the hand doctor had to lance my finger to release the trapped pus, which then allowed my finger to begin the healing process. Lancing is not for sissies. Lancing involved taking a sharp instrument and cutting a small incision in my finger, then the doctor put enormous pressure on it to extract the "gross" infected material. He then bandaged it, prescribed a strong antibiotic and sent me on my way with instructions to call the office if it didn't get better.

Angry people need counsel, just like I needed a specialist to take a look at that weird green bubble on my finger. When we try to "doctor" ourselves, the outcome is hit-and-miss at best. There are some things that you've been harboring inside (emotional pus, if you will...I know, gross), and this infected material in your heart and mind needs to be pressed out.

Stop being angry around the issue. Get to the heart of the matter, and work at resolving it. On the other hand, if you're angry because you're not getting your own way, grow up! Many conflicts can be resolved when adults agree to communicate without accusing each other, and when at least one stops being selfish. When the conflict is between you and a spouse, you must get things worked out before they drive you apart. When the problem is between you and someone other than a spouse, the resolution may come in accepting the fact that some people are difficult and aren't going to change anytime soon, so we need to give them a "wide berth" if they are routinely hurtful. We don't have to walk into a fist.

I had to choose to go to the doctor. My hemming and hawing cost me precious time and put me in a much tougher position than if I had sought the help earlier. Once I went to the doctor, his treatment hurt me, but the pain was followed by healing, finally. Sometimes we can get over being angry by allowing ourselves to process the hurt (yes, admit that it happened and it hurt you), then commit to the process of forgiving. I wish that forgiveness was a button that we could push and be over a matter, but no such button exists, so we have to actively commit to forgiving, and keep forgiving, and keep forgiving...

Drippy harps have miserable lives. If you have been struggling with the combination of contentiousness and anger, seek out a godly Christian woman in your church and let her help you sort out what's really troubling your heart. Just as ignoring the finger infection put me in peril of losing a finger, you are risking way too much by not getting your matter handled wisely. Instead of staying stuck in such a fruitless mode, either work at resolving what's ailing you, or determine that you're going to forgive and move on. Forgiveness provides the option of deciding to "P.O.A.T." "Pass over a transgression." This is an Old Testament term for "let it go." Stop eating carrots when you want chocolate cake.

"The discretion of a man deferreth his anger: and it is his glory to pass over a transgression." Prov. 19:11

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Friday, February 10, 2012

I Witnessed a Robbery

I witnessed a real robbery yesterday while shopping at a department store (which shall remain nameless so that they won't come after me for telling on them). It happened right at the cash register! It wasn't the shoot-em-up-bang-bang kind of robbery; it was a verbal robbery, and it went like this:

A young lady who appeared to be about in her twenties had a good sized pile of clothes at the checkout counter. Funny. She didn't look happy at all about all that loot she was purchasing; in fact, she looked a bit uncomfortable. I wonder if she was having second thoughts about buying so much stuff?

Well, the cashier was one of these "Don't Worry, Be Happy" types who bounced to her own music in her head, and she zipped right into her prepared script: "Would you like to open a Dewey-Cheetum Charge card today? You'll save 15% off this purchase!"

The young woman hesitated, and then asked, "How do I pay it back? All at once?" (I cringed. The cashier grinned that "Gotcha" grin. This reminded me of those old National Geographic safari videos where the lion would chase down the slow animal and gobble him up.)

"Oh no, you don't have to pay it all back at once!" the cashier said with a wave of her hand. She continued her sales pitch with this startling statement: "I just charged $300 worth of clothes this week, 'cuz I went sort of crazy, but I'll only have to pay $25 a month until it's paid off. You'll build your credit by doing it that way."

Oh yeah. It's all good in the broke-hood. Ain't got no money but I sure look good.

I was fully engrossed in this unfolding drama by now, forgetting that I was standing there to pay (cash!) for my own purchase. My insides were screaming to the young lady: "Don't fall for it!" My outsides stayed out of it. After a  few more shuffles and seconds, she buckled and said, "Okay. How do I sign up for it?"

Robbed. Score another one for the credit card company, while another young victim goes rump-first down the stuff-filled slope into debtor's prison.

Parents of adult children, talk to your young people about the financial traps being set for them by an industry that only cares about itself. Warn your young adults that they will be preyed upon, flattered, cajoled and lied to in order to get them to give away their paychecks before they earn them. And if you're already on your own, I'm warning you: there are robbers out there, and they want to get into your "Purse National Bank" and clean you out!

Our next generation is going to be in worse shape than those who are living paycheck to paycheck: they're going to need three jobs just to cover the cost of their credit card bills!

I'm afraid we "ain't seen nothin' yet" when it comes to the financial crisis in America. With trained robbers dressed as cashiers behind cash registers in stores everywhere, we will all be bombarded with the tempting yet deceptive message of "buy now, pay later." Those of us who have made the bone-headed mistake of buying into this are still digging our way out of the narrow pit called unnecessary debt. Cash exists for a reason: it's the primary tool for paying for goods and services. Credit used to be reserved for buying a house or a car. Now it's used to buy soda at the gas station and pizza on Sundays after church (I feel our sons squirming over that pizza comment).

The young lady finished her transaction, took  her huge bag of merchandise and headed out of the store. The cashier then turned and looked at me. I only had one item, and it was a nightgown for $7.60. I found it on the clearance rack, marked down 80%. She never asked me if I wanted to save 15% by opening a Dewey-Cheetum charge. Maybe it was because I was holding cash in my hand?

"There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up." Prov. 21:20

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Have you hugged your Pastor today?

Our Pastor, Dr. David Clear has said publicly that he's not the "huggy type," so as a church family, we know not to run up on him to crush him in a big bear-hug. In fact, if we tried to engage him in a hug-fest, I think he'd run for his car, and then he'd be tempted step on the gas and aim the car at the huggers! (Pastor Clear, I'm just guessing here.) At any rate, there used to be a public service commercial on TV that said "Have you hugged your kid today? Did you send him on his way, with love-la-la-la-love..." and it repeated itself. So I'm hearing that jingle in my head as I write this post. Have you thanked your Pastor lately? (You don't have to hug him to thank him.)

Norman and I have many Pastors as friends and have heard life-changing sermons all over the country.  Sitting under the sound of all this great preaching has allowed me to collect dozens of quotes that have left influential marks on my heart and mind. Even so, there's no place like home, so most of the quotes that I've jotted down are from our own Pastor Clear. I'll share these with you today, which is the same as passing along the impact, heart to heart.

"Apples of Gold" from Men of God:
"The Christian life is meant to cost us something. It is a life of sacrifice." --Pastor David Clear, MN

"Good people leave things better than they were before they came."--Pastor Brian Nibbe, missionary to Cluj-Napoca, Romania (preached during furlough at First Baptist Church of Rosemount, MN)

"God is not a big part of my life; He IS my life."--Evangelist Dr. Darrell Murphy, MN

"Life is full of reversals, but this must not change our walk with God."--Pastor Jack Trieber, CA

"The cancer that eats joy is worry."--Dr. David Gibbs, legal missionary; preached at North Valley Baptist Church conference in CA-Sept. 2009

"Soul winning tip: Look for those who are looking for God."--Pastor Tim Ruhl, CA

 "Learn to embrace adversity. Walk on dirt and love the desert. There is a wilderness on the way to the promised land."--Pastor David Clear, MN

"I want my life to still be speaking after I die."--Pastor Mike Ray, CA

"May God help us to see people as they could be; not as they are."--Pastor John Stancil, FL

"When making decisions, ask yourself, 'How will this decision look when I stand in the presence of the Lord?'"--Evangelist Dr. James Rushing, preached at Shasta Baptist Church in CA-April 2008 (approximately five months before Bro. Rushing went home to be with the Lord)

"How you view your past will affect your present and your future."--Pastor Mike Johnson, Redding, CA

"You'd better be careful how confidently you move if you're not moving with God."--Pastor David Clear, MN

 "Get your thinker thinking right, and your doer will end up doing right."--Dr. Shelton Smith, Editor at Sword of the Lord Publisher, Murfreesboro, TN; heard at West Coast Sword Ladies' Jubilee, CA

"Jesus taught the disciples about storms by leading them into storms."--Evangelist John Bishop, Murfreesboro, TN; preached in October 2010 at First Baptist Church of Rosemount, MN

"Keep your spiritual eyes open to see needs. Never say (to a person in need), 'If no one else can do it, call me.'"--Evangelist Chris Stansell, preached at First Baptist Church, MN

"When we're complaining, we're really saying, 'God, you don't know what's best.'"--Pastor David Clear, MN

"Remember: God's plans don't have to make sense to us."--Pastor Robinson, missionary to Germany, while on deputation in 2005

"Growth is a by-product of obedience to God."--Pastor David Clear, MN

Mrs. Valerie Clear can hug Pastor David Clear. She's his wife. I won't hug my Pastor with my arms, but I'll hug him with my life. The best hug that you and I can give our Pastors is to "do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6:8) So, when I hear the preaching, I'm writing it down to follow it; not just to list it. I am grateful for Pastors, their wives and their families. Are you? If so, go and thank them today. (Thank you, Pastor Clear.) And if the Pastor happens to also be your husband, your Dad, your Grandpa, or some other close relative, you can hug him, too.

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Prov. 25:11

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Drippy Harps, part two

We're examining ourselves for the evidence of being "drippy harps," which is the term we're using to describe the contentious woman. Let's look at another way that we can stray into this zone and what to do about it:

2. Problems with children can make women very drippy and harpy.
"A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping." (Prov. 19:13)
This verse can be taken two ways: as separate situations or as related. Whenever I read this verse, I see a woman who has had it with her foolish child, so she let's loose on her husband with a continual stream of complaints. The man knows that there's a problem, but the wife wants to make sure that he knows how this problem is making her life miserable, so she goes into a monologue with plenty of details! (Note to women: Men have an automatic fogging device in their brains that activates anytime a person goes on and on. If he's looking at you but his eyes are glazed over, you've tripped the fog switch.)

This reminds me of the time when Norman came home, whistling a tune as he came through the door to ask me in his calm, carefree way, "How was your day, Sweetheart?" He asked me this while standing over me as I was on my knees cleaning a spot out of the carpet; a brown spot. A very smelly, brown spot.

I looked up at him from my humble position, screwed up my face and started to cry! How was my day? Well, it was simply splendid until our son found the refastenable tapes (blast those diaper companies and their big bright ideas from childless scientists sitting in labs somewhere making six figures and driving home in their convertibles top-down in warm climates)! So when this nameless child of ours made his little discovery, he removed his diaper, dropped it into the crib, took the organic "brown chalk" and started doing some Picasso on the yellow walls. This was supposed to be nap time.

After a suspiciously long nap, brilliant son threw his little body out of the crib (we birthed an Olympic high-jumper who had no problem clearing the side rails of any crib), he walked his chalk down the hall to come and greet me. "Nap all done, Mommy," he proclaimed as if he was in charge. His "chalk" was stuck to the bottom of his little footed pajamas. Oh bliss. Oh shoot me now. I could smell him before he got anywhere near my airspace.

If you think this is funny, I'll send you some new diapers with refastenable tapes, toddler and chalk included.

What I just described was a small problem and it had a simple solution. After I told Norman through frustrated tears about our gymnastic artist in residence, he handed me his car keys and ordered me to go out and take a break while he cleaned up after his "little fella." I really think he rushed me out of the house so that he could let out the GUFFAW that he was holding back. I saw his mouth twitching as I told him the story of the day, but my eyes said "Laugh your way to your funeral," so he managed to swallow it until I got out of the house. It was not a good time to have a twitchy lip.

You could hear the tires as I peeled out of our driveway, making my clean getaway to the only place I could think of at the moment: the grocery store. Ah, the bliss of wandering grocery store aisles without a list, without children, and without that smell! It's a good thing our store stays open for 24 hours. I'm not sure how long I was there, but I came home with a rotisserie chicken for our very late dinner, so at least I was productive in my wandering. 

As children grow, so do the problems. To use a math analogy, young children's problem are addition and subtraction; older children are multiplication, long division and Advanced Trigonometry. A woman runs the risk of becoming contentious because of the multiple problems that stem from the  foolishness that Scripture says is "bound in the heart of a child." Chewing on your husband over the foibles of the children won't improve anything. All you're doing is alienating your closest teammate and adding another problem to your already complicated situation.

How can a woman keep from becoming drippy and harpy over the misadventures of children? Refuse to engage in "friendly fire." You and your husband need to stay on the same side. Change your tone, change the timing of the discussion, and bathe the entire situation in prayer. If you are having a particularly difficult time with a child, you may need counsel to navigate your way through the situation. Seeking counsel is a sign of spiritual strength. If you need it, get it, but don't take the misbehavior of your children out on your husband.

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Drippy Harps, part one

Are you a drip? Do you harp a lot? I heard this rotten joke recently: "My wife is a perfect angel; she's always up in the air harping on something." Yikes! Is this me? Is this you?

When we allow ourselves to become casual in our relationships with our husbands, we can easily slip into the role of the "drippy harp:" a contentious woman who nags and criticizes while convincing herself that she's just being honest and helpful. Deliver me from such help! We would never want to be treated in the way that we mistreat our spouses!

We'll examine this one over several segments, but here's the first one:

1. If you won't let a matter drop, you're a drip.
"A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike." (Prov. 27:15)
You may not realize it, but your repeated "suggestions" translate into "criticims" over time. Bringing an issue to someone's attention once is reasonable; twice is reminding; three times and beyond is full-tilt nagging. You may think that you're being helpful, but if you turned it around and put yourself on the receiving end of your repeated statements, you may be able to hear it differently.

When we've asked our men to do (or not to do) something, they heard us the first time. If we bring it up again, it's certain that they heard. If we try a third time...drip, drip, drip: we've become contentious. A contentious woman is trying to win, even though she often loses. So what's a woman to do?

Pray for wisdom, choose your words carefully, speak them lovingly at the right time and then wait patiently. And dump your expectations for a perfect resolution, because those are fairy tale thoughts invading your good sense. After a period of quiet and prayerful waiting, the answer may not be the solution you had in mind, because God sees differently than we see. God can see the whole picture; we only see our part.

Don't be a drip. Instead of bringing up the same matter over and over again, take it to the Lord. He doesn't mind how often you repeat yourself!

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Friday, February 3, 2012

From 33,970 feet in the air

Back in 1992, Mrs. Ellie Johnson, wife of Dr. Ed Johnson asked me to teach a workshop for mothers of young children at the First Baptist Church Ladies' Extravaganza in Rosemount, MN. My children were still "under construction" at the time, so I didn't know what I was going to say, but I accepted the job. I had already been taught this much: If someone in the ministry asks you to do something and you can do it, do it. So, I started writing a workshop, using Titus 2:3-5 as my text.

Since I had never done this before, I wrote WAY too much material for the 45-minute workshop, holding ladies hostage with my crazy war stories of motherhood as we laughed past the cutoff time. They had to send security (in the form of a hostess) to break up our wayward operation, and I gleeful walked down the hall with a clump of happy Moms to the auditorium. We were all late for the next session, it was my fault, and I didn't even have sense enough to be ashamed of myself. That day, a speaker/teacher was born.

Ten years later, Mrs. Ellie Johnson had a conversation with Mrs. Betty Smith about potential speakers for the Sword Ladies' Jubilee. I blame these two for the fact that my calendar rarely has an empty white square anymore. From what I was told, the conversation went something like this:

Betty to Ellie: "Do you have any good speakers that we could invite to teach at the Jubilee?"
Ellie to Betty: "Oh, you should ask Francie Taylor. She'll do a great job for you!"

I didn't even know what a Jubilee was, and it was going to require flying across the country. I said "yes" with my mouth, but my heart was screaming "What in the WORLD are you agreeing to NOW?"

Fast-forward to February 8, 2012 and this same teacher (I prefer to be called a teacher, because a "speaker" reminds me of those things on the platform where sound comes out) is seated on Delta flight 2159, en route to Los Angeles where I'll catch a connecting flight to Sacramento. I will then be met and driven two hours north to co-teach the ladies' retreat at Shasta Baptist Church in Redding, CA. Not all conferences are so difficult to reach, but some take an entire day of travel. With the time zone difference, I'll be a melted Tootsie Roll with a flattened afro by the end of the day, but I love what I do.

In the twenty years since I first walked into the Johnson Chapel to teach that workshop for young mothers, I have flown all over the United States and even to Canada (the foreign country that doesn't feel foreign), teaching basic Bible principles for women of all ages and stages of life. I still write lessons that are WAY too long for the time allotted, but I know how to edit myself in midair now. I still love to make ladies laugh, because I'm convinced that "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." (Prov. 17:22) I've taught teens and I've taught ladies who could be my Grandmas. When I'm teaching teens, I'm appealing to them as baby sisters. When I teach ladies my age, I appeal to them as sisters in my "time zone." When I teach ladies who are in their later years, I appeal to them as I would my own mother; with utmost respect and full awareness that I could sit at their feet and have them teach me!

I never hung out a shingle that said, "Invite me to teach the Bible to the ladies at your church." This was never in my mind, and I did not go to college to study travel-teaching-101. "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." (I Tim. 1:12) God put me here, and I am humbly aware that the responsibility of teaching is enormous. I think on Scriptural principles and see lessons to be written everywhere I go, all year round. Preparing lessons for conferences, writing books, and now writing for this website is my second full-time job.

My first full-time job is as a wife to Norman H. Taylor and mother to Austen, Hillary and Collin. I love being a wife and a mother, and even though I've not done it perfectly (ask Norman about dinner last, don't ask), I have made it my aim to be pleasing to the Lord in the roles that He has given me. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to get to know the heart of the teacher behind this website. Some of you are my dear friends, but others were referred here by sister-friends and you may not know me from Adam's housecat. Did Adam even have a housecat, and is "housecat" a compound word?

Come back often, as I will write articles, post in this blog, and answer questions in "Ask the Teacher." Eventually, this will become a spot where you can sit down with a cup of coffee, tea, Teeccino (my personal favorite) or hot chocolate and read things written for Christian woman. Please pray for me. My heart's desire is to be beneficial, bearing fruit that remains.
Keep the heart, Sisters.
Prov. 4:23

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Do You Know What You Have?

Someone out there may be struggling with this holiday called Valentine's Day, and I can relate.  This is my third Valentine's...