Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Execute the Excuses

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m reading in the book of Judges right now, and the men there have really caught my attention, in unexpected ways. So, I’ve been thinking about them and poking around in their business. After being slapped by what Shamgar had to teach me,  I went back to read about Ehud again in Judges 3:12-30. He’s the left handed Benjamite who was mentioned just before Shamgar.

Let me tell ya, Ehud did not pull his left-handed punch as I read and reread his story.

Click to make bigger.
Warren Wiersbe says “the text of Judges 3:15 can be translated ‘a man handicapped in the right hand,’ which suggests that he was not ambidextrous at all but albe to use only his left hand.” If it’s true that Ehud was handicapped, then that might have helped him gain a private audience with the king of Moab. Instead of using his handicap as an exemption clause, he used it as part of his strategy and then followed it up with more action. He led Israel to victory over Moab and the nation had 80 years of peace.

Ehud did not let his handicap stop him from doing what God called him to do. He didn’t make excuses why he couldn’t. Instead, he relied on God and learned to work with and around his handicap.

If I want to succeed or even move forward in what God has called me to do, then I need to follow Ehud’s example and quit making excuses. I need to quit believing those excuses and basing my actions and my life on them.

There will always be excuses.
There will always be speed bumps.
There will always be obstacles.
My job is to follow Ehud. Adapt, learn what I need to, make the necessary adjustments and press on.

Only as I execute the excuses will I be able to move forward in obedience.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reviewing Bible Memory Passages - Part 1

Bible memory. Scripture memorization.Patty Wysong at Patterings

I cannot tell you how much Scripture memorization has helped me this last year and the last few months in particular. It's made a big difference in my Bible study time, in what I take away from studying, in the satisfaction I find in my studying, and especially in my thought life.  Memorizing Bible verses has been a game changer for me.

Part of my Scripture memorization this time around has been relearning passages I had memorized years ago. I was encouraged to see how quickly I was able to relearn them! Yet even as I relearned them and added them to my "rolodex of Scripture" I wondered how I was going to keep them all in my head. My brain is like Swiss cheese...it's full of holes (so things seem to fall out as fast as I put them in my brain). So, I did some digging on ideas for reviewing the Bible verses you've memorized, and I found this gem with John Piper...



After watching this I found that I stressed less about remembering every verse. Knowing how I work, that itself will be a help.

I'm also putting together a list of verses that I want to have ready and available on the tip of my tongue, to pull out and use at any time. These passages are ones that I feel will help me where I am now and with what I see my ministry is.

So tell me, what is one Scripture passage that you want ready in your mind? 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cutie-Patootie Monkey

As you probably know by now, Toby is a ham. When we're working a fair his job is to be cute, and he does a bang-up job of it.  Of course, while he's being cute, we're trying to get a good picture and often that can be challenging. Very challenging.
Monkey Monday at Patterings

Thankfully, we can usually get a picture that works. But in the meantime, we end up with some funny shots of him and of the people he's posing with.

Getting to see people as they meet a monkey lets me see a lot of smiles and hear some pretty cool stories, and it always makes me day.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

4 Tips to Inspire Others

Inspiring others is a gift. It's something I think each of us can do. If we want to and are willing to do the work first.

The other day, my oldest son badgered me into watching a Piano Guys video. And yes, he badgered until I watched it simply because he wanted me to, and because he said it was piano and cello music (and I happen to love cello).

Confession: I fell in love.
Again.

I've loved classical music and cello for a long time (ask my kids, they've listened to countless days filled with it) but had fallen away from it because those same kids grumbled constantly about it. Lesson learned. My music is back. =)

That one video led to an hour's journey through a playlist that had me ready to tackle my heart-work again.

Here's The Piano Guys Charlie Brown Medley that brought a lesson into focus for me... Watch it! Please! You'll be glad you did.




4 Tips to Inspire Others

  1. Inspiring others takes Emotion! It has to start deep inside you, bubble up and then pour out. You have to feel the passion within yourself before you can share it and inspire others.
  2. Inspiring others requires Effort! The truth of reaping and sowing is true when it comes to inspiring others. When you put effort into your message or music or art, you reap the benefits in many ways. And so do others. If you want to inspire people you must invest the effort into whatever it is you are called to do.
  3. Inspiring others takes Enthusiasm! on your part. The same music or message could be shared without enthusiasm and it would fail to inspire. It'd face-plant and leave you wondering what happened. 
  4. Inspiring others requires personal Enjoyment of your craft. It's one of those silent, seemingly invisible things that transform the experience into one that's vibrant. The Piano Guys do not just perform what they're called to do, they enjoy it and their enjoyment is contagious!

The Piano Guys pour emotion, effort and loads of enthusiasm, energy and enjoyment into their music, from the opening notes to the grand finale. From there it overflows onto their audience and inspires them. Smiles appear, hands start clapping and feet that shuffled down the corridor begin to dance.

Hearing and watching The Piano Guys inspired me. It infused me with energy even though it had been a long day, and motivated me to tackle my heart-work. The work God has called me to do.

So tell me, what inspires you?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Joyously Abandoned

In my post Face the If I mentioned how Wilda Mathews was caught in the trap of 'if onlys' on Easter Sunday 1952, deep in the heart of Communist China. A year later, as Easter rolled around again, she was determined that it wouldn't be another black day for her. She started studying the resurrection story and resurrection life, and when she came to Peter's part she felt condemned.

She had not said, 'I know Him not' but she had no joy. She was not bitter, but she was frustrated and restless. Her opportunity to witness to the Chinese eyes around them that she did know the Lord and that He was satisfying her drought—had she shown that? If not, wasn't that denying the Lord before man?

As I've read that many times now, I'm constantly convicted by it. Am I joyfully living? Like Wilda, I'm not bitter, but I've certainly been frustrated and restless at times. Can others see that Christ is not just meeting my needs, but fulfilling me, too? That His Life is flowing through me? Would others see my green leaves even though my life might be in the biggest drought yet to face me?

Two months later, Wilda's husband, Arthur, came to a similar conclusion. He had been reading Ephesians 5:10 and asked her what she thought was “well-pleasing to the Lord in these our experiences?” As they talked it over, Wilda was able to share with him her Easter lesson:

Not to receive it joyfully was to deny the Lord before men...A few nights later it came to Arthur like a flash: the Son had left Heaven, not submitting to the will of God, but delighting in it. Up to now they had been submitting; rather feverishly submitting...
The Son had left Heaven, not submitting to the will of God, but delighting in it.

In a letter home, Arthur wrote this about all they had learned:
Just to say submission to the will of God did not seem to go deep enough, for we had been trying for a long time to do just that. If you had a servant you would expect submission from him, just as you would from an old bullock with a yoke on its neck. But as sons surely there was something more than that.

...So as we uncovered the earth we could see that our prayers had selfishly centered around the shortening of the days...There was none of the recklessness of faith such as the three friends of Daniel showed. Nor was there the spirit of joyous abandonment which the widow displayed in giving her two mites.

So we came to see that God wanted us to
will with Him to stay put; not to desire to run away as quickly as we could persuade Him to let us...The great chords that sounded through our hearts as we touched the Joyously Abandoned keys were really thrilling...

So we are no longer stupid bullocks being driven or dragged unwillingly along a distasteful road; but sons, co-operating wholeheartedly with our Father...


The yoke is LIGHT only as it is TAKEN, and not as it is suffered.

Simple submission is not enough. Delighting in doing God's will, in living out the will of God for your life, is where the great joy is.

I haven't mentioned here all the things the Mathews lived with, and without during their years of waiting to be released from China, but their living conditions were such that the Chinese Christians pitied them. But was there a purpose for all that God asked of this missionary couple? Yes, there was a tremendous purpose! Here's how Isobel Kuhn wrote it:

The message above all others which the Chinese church needed was to see that truth lived out under circumstances equally harrowing as their own.

Arthur and Wilda had longed to serve Him; but humanlike they had put their own interpretation on what service is. They thought it meant preaching with their lips. Amy Carmichael once replied to a Tamil Christian who took this meaning of service: 'God didn't make you
all mouth.' The most potent way to preach is by life, by living it. This was the service which the Mathews family were to render to Him.

The message of this chapter has been running through my mind for two weeks, now, and the affect it's had on me is deep.

Being joyously abandoned to God's will is where I want to be.


Italicized parts of this post are direct quotations from Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn, chapter 8.
This is a repost from October 2008.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Plant Your Own Garden

As I've mulled over this whole thing with validation I was reminded of this poem that I was introduced to in high school. It's one that's helped me remember that I cannot rely on others to affirm what I'm doing. Putting that burden on them is actually unfair to them. It makes me expect it of them, especially of those closest to me, and those expectations can lead to disappointment, disillusionment, and brokenness.

It's taking me years to learn this but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it a bit better. I have some ideas why too, but I'll share those another time...


Come the Dawn
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye you learn.

Unknown

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tips and Tricks for Bible Memorization

Bible memory. Scripture memorization.Patty Wysong at Patterings

Memorizing Bible verses isn't easy but it's one of those things that is very worthwhile.

Here's a few tricks to memorizing that I've learned along the way...
  1. Ask God to help you!
  2. Be accountable to a small group—your Bible study or prayer group, a friend who will ask you about it and prod you when necessary…
  3. Write the verse on a card and post it somewhere you’ll see it or carry it in your pocket for quick and easy access.
  4. Read the verse 5 times every day.
  5. Draw a box around the verbs.
  6. Use a site like BibleGateWay or BlueLetterBible to look up a keyword in the verse.
  7. Use symbols to draw the verse then use it as a memory tool to help you visualize the verse. It really helps!! No artistic ability is needed. This is for you, not a gift for Rembrandt.
  8. Sing the verse. Remember Silly Songs with Larry? Anything goes.

My personal favorite tricks are... 

  • Write the verses using brightly colored pens (I write the verse 5-10 times, depending on my time and how well it's sticking in my head). The brighter the pens, the better it works.
  • Look up every cross reference listed for the verses I'm working on. 
  • Read about the verses in a commentary or two, to help me understand it more.
  • Put motions to the verse. 

I have to admit though that if people were to actually see me doing the motions they'd probably laugh. When I was walking early in the mornings, I'd memorize. I was always very thankful we live on back-country roads so only the deer and dogs would see me waving my arms around. But it helped!! Now, as I drive to work I'll say my verses and my motions have to be limited to what I can do while driving. But, they still help!!

Try different things until you find what works for you.
But the biggest key: Just do it!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monkey Raspberries?

You never know what you're going to get when a monkey is posing for pictures.


Monkey Monday at Patterings

He's really not blowing raspberries but sometimes I wonder.


When Toby sits with someone for a picture, we give him a small treat. He'll sit beside them munching, and often that creates a few funny shots.





#NaBloPoMo Day 12

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What’s in your hand?

In my Bible reading I’m in Judges and it’s capturing my attention. Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Gideon… men that God used. Men that, as I’ve dug into them a little, don’t look exactly like I pictured them other times I’ve read Judges.

For instance, take Shamgar. The one verse devoted to Shamgar tells us all we know about him.

After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel. ~Judges 3:31

What’s an oxgoad?
It’s a long stick with a point on one end and a shovel like blade of sorts on the other. One end is for prodding the oxen to keep them moving and the other end’s to scrape off the plow. It’s a farmer’s tool, not a warrior’s weapon.

In those days Israel had been deweaponized by their enemies. So, Shamgar used what he had. And with God’s help, he was successful and he saved Israel.

With an oxgoad.
No, that’s not true. He had more than an oxgoad. He had the Spirit of the Living God empowering him. And that’s what puts me and Shamgar on the same playing field. The Holy Spirit.

When God calls you, He empowers you to do what He’s called you to do and gives you the tools necessary. I wonder if Shamgar thought he had what he needed to save Israel? I doubt it. His enemies had real weapons and he had a farmer’s tool. But God didn’t give Shamgar weapons he probably thought he needed, weapons that would’ve come in handy. God used what Shamgar already had in his hands. An oxgoad. If Shamgar had gone on a quest to find the weapons he thought he needed before obeying God, he would’ve lost his opportunity.

This has had me thinking for days.

Am I obeying or delaying? Like Shamgar, I have the Holy Spirit empowering me. I’m sure I have my own version of an oxgoad—something that God has put in my hands, so I don’t need to go on a quest to find anything.

It boils down to simple obedience. I need to quit waiting for what I think are things I need in order to obey and just get on with obeying.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Validation

As someone who writes, a question I’ve been mulling over is “Why do you want to be published?” (referring to traditional publishing) But really, this same question could be posed to anyone… “Why do you want to accomplish ______ in your chosen area?”

I get hung up on this question every time.
I don’t like my answer, even though it’s painfully honest.

I want to be published traditionally because I want the validation of it. I want someone to say that my work is good enough to warrant a contract and even payment. I want that seal of approval on my work. That proof. Something I can hold up and say, “See?!”

But every time I even think those words I hear a still, quiet voice in my heart saying, “Isn’t My approval enough?”
God did not use a cookie cutter when He created us. What’s right for my friend isn’t necessarily right for me. God may have called one of us to walk to the beat of a different drum. The key is to be obedient to what God’s called me to do. My calling, not someone else’s calling.

That means risking being different and maybe even appearing wrong. Sometimes that may mean the appearance of taking the easy way or a short cut. But the truth of the matter is that if it’s what God told me to do, then for me it’s right (and the other way may be the wrong way for me).

I need to obey what God's called me to do and look to Him for validation. Only Him.

So tell me, is validation something you struggle with? 
How do you deal with it?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Contemplation

It’s a contemplative kind of day. One that comes once a year—every November 12th to be exact. A day that I usually set aside for looking at my life, for self-analysis and sometimes for goal setting.

Some questions I’m mulling over today…

  • What’s been good about this last year that I want to continue with?
  • What needs to go?
  • What needs tweaking? Major tweaks or minor?
  • What do I want to accomplish in this next year?
  • What do I want to be?


To be honest, I’ve been happy with where I am. It’s been a year for sinking my roots deeper in Christ. Not because things are going so bad that I run to Him desperate for rescue, but because I’m going to Him just to be with Him, to soak in Him.

I have a feeling that another round of change is coming for me. Things that were removed for a time might be back in my life, but in a different way than they were before.

Interestingly enough, the question that has me most curious about and interested in is the last one. What do I want to be? Not do, be.

Sure, birthdays are for celebrating, but they’re also a good time to stop and inventory life. A time to contemplate some of the deeper things that I tend to shy away from.

So tell me, do you know what you want to be?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Face the If

One of the books I love is Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn since it's one of those books that greatly impacted my life. I first read it in college, 25+ years ago, after Cheryl sent me a copy. (She also gave me several other books by Isobel Kuhn, and they are on my favorite books shelf.)

Green Leaf in Drought is about Arthur and Wilda Matthews, who were missionaries to China. They were the last of the China Inland Mission members to leave Communist China in 1953, after spending 2-3 years caught in the grip of the Red Regime—but this is NOT a book about the regime nor even of China. This little gem is about how Arthur and Wilda's faith flourished while under great pressure. Not just moments of pressure, but 2 ½ years of constant pressure.

Late in 1950, while others were leaving the country, the Matthews went deeper into China so they could reach out to the Mongols. Expecting a welcome and a home to live in, they were hit with immediate disappointment and discomfort. Every time they turned around their circle was downsized until they were confined to the compound and not allowed to minister to even the Chinese church that met at the compound. I'll tell more about them in future posts, but something that is standing out to me is Wilda's struggle with doubt. Was this God's doing, or were they the victims of a mistake?

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She was caught up in the “If only...” game and it was eating at her. That's something many of us can relate to! On Easter Sunday of 1951, Wilda found herself thinking, “If He really lives today, as the song says, why had He allowed this?” As she worked she remembered two tracts she had, “The 'If' in Your Life” by A.B. Simpson and 'Second Causes' by Hudson Taylor.

The glory of God is to come out of the 'if' in your life...Do not be thinking of your 'if.' Make a power out of your 'if' for God...Do you know that a light is to fall on your 'if' some day? Then take in the possibilities and say, 'Nothing has ever come to me, nothing has ever gone from me, that I shall not be better for God by it...' Face the 'if' in your life and say, For this I have Jesus. ~The 'If' In Your Life

The second tract said, “The secret of Hudson Taylor's rest of heart amid such tempests of hate was his refusal to look at second causes...He believed it was with God, and God alone, he to do.”

Wilda accepted that her circumstances were not a mistake, they were directly from God. She held on to this scripture:

You need not fight in this battle;
station yourselves, stand and see
the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.
~2 Chronicles 20:17 (NAS)

In a letter home, Arthur wrote, “These trials of faith are to give us patience, for patience can only be worked as faith goes into the Pressure Chamber. To pull out because the pressure is laid on, and to start fretting would be to lose all the good He has in this for us.”

There have been times in my life that 'if only' had the center stage, and I was miserable. We can not focus on those if's. We need to see that all that comes into our lives is for God's glory to shine through us, and that it comes from His hand—it's not a mistake.

The meaning of all that God does with us—joys and sorrows, light and darkness...is that our wills may be made plastic and flexible. ~Alexander MacLaren


There's more from this little gem of a book, but I'll save it for another day.

This is a repost from October 12, 2008. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Road Blocks to Bible Memorization

Bible memory. Scripture memorization.Patty Wysong at Patterings

Memorizing Bible verses can be hard enough, but when we don't see the things that prevent us from memorizing, it can be that much harder, if not impossible.

The other night as our ladies Bible study was wrapping up, I wrestled with the bag I use for hauling my study books in. They were getting hung up on a bag of special mints I keep in there as a reward for the ladies who have worked on their Bible memory verse. That night I hadn’t even asked if anyone had reviewed their verse. In all honesty, I was discouraged in that area of study but didn’t want to share my discouragement with the ladies. They’ve been so faithful in attending and participating and even writing out the passage we’re studying that I didn’t want to be a debby-downer nor a nag, so I simply left the bag of mints inside my bag.

But to get my books in the bag I pulled the mints out, and one of the ladies commented on them. So, I asked the dreaded question...

Has anyone worked on their memory verse?

And again, no one had. Their faces said it all.
That’s when I heard Dad’s voice in my head…

Why aren’t they trying to memorize anymore?

I didn’t know, so I asked them.
They had great answers! From silly to painfully honest...

  • “I have the memory of a goldfish.” (She doesn’t but it was definitely worth the giggle.) And if you want to think about this one seriously, if you have a bad memory that's the very reason you need to memorize --to exercise your brain and keep it learning new things. Use it or lose it.
  • “I didn’t know what to memorize. I just want you to tell me which verse.” (So I did. Right away. I’d had one in mind for her, right from the very beginning of this round of study.)
  • “You told me I couldn’t memorize the verse I wanted to.” (And she was right. I DID tell her no. Good grief! What kind of a teacher am I?! In my defense, I said no because I was sure she had memorized Ephesians 2:8-9 as a kid since she’d grown up in the church. But I also told her that if she began remembering the verses to add verse 10. Hehe.)
  • “I just haven’t done it.” (And I was thrilled to hear muttering coming from her corner even while shenanigans were going on as we worked through why I didn’t let MissM pick the verse she wanted.)


I could relate to each of their reasons.
Well, except for being told I couldn’t memorize the verse I wanted to. I had good teachers who encouraged me and told me I could, not one who told me I couldn’t. (Such a Duh moment for me! Sheesh!)

Part of succeeding is knowing what you’re handicap is and finding a work-around…finding what is preventing you from succeeding and then learning how to move past those things.

So tell me, what keeps you from memorizing?

Monday, November 09, 2015

Monkey Selfies

Selfies with Toby...you never know what you're gonna get because he's such a ham.




Toby loves cameras and phones.
He's like a kid who knows when a camera is pointed his way. But you have to be careful because he's not always gentle with them if he gets hold of them. He'll start off gentle but after awhile he'll start making noise with it...by slamming it onto whatever surface he's on. It can be instant death for the device although I've found that the LifeProof cell phone cases are also monkey proof. =)

Monkey Monday at Patterings


(Click the graphic to the right for more monkey pictures.)
#NaBloPoMo Day 5


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Quietness


Quietness.
A stillness that permeates every fiber of your being.
A time to simply sit, to set aside all the work and worry of life and just be.
Not planning.
Not thinking.
Just being.
Being in the presence of God Almighty.
Bowing before His awesomeness.
Soaking in His glory.
Letting His peace fill you.
Renew you.
Overwhelm you.
Strengthen you.

Sometimes, often, this is what we need most.
#NaBloPoMo Day 4


Saturday, November 07, 2015

No Limits

Off and on throughout the day I've been thinking about limiting God--something I do far too often. I should know better. I have the sea urchins to remind me...

Even though I grew up on the coast of Maine, I had never found a sea urchin that I could bring home. The shells captivated me but the few I found were either broken or still smelly and awful so they stayed where they were found.

But a couple years ago when I went to visit Cheryl in Puerto Rico we found oodles of sea urchins. More urchins than I ever would have imagined possible. The funny thing? I had asked God for one. Just one to put on my shelf and I would be thrilled and content. I think God snickered. We didn't find just one. We found a gazillion of them. They were everywhere. Little, adorable sea urchins.

Thankfully, whenI found myself limiting God this morning the Bible verses I'm memorizing came to mind.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power the works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:30 NAS




God can, and will do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. So let's quit being naysayers and let Him to do it! Let me tell you, if we do, the biggest shell collecting bucket we can find won't hold what He has for us.

Let's open our minds and hearts and start watching for what God will do when we let Him. 

#NaBloPoMo Day 3

Friday, November 06, 2015

Let Your Light Shine



You are the salt of the earth;
but if the salt has become tasteless,
how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything,
except to be thrown out
and trampled under foot by men.

You are the light of the world.
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket,
but on the lamp stand,
and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Let your light shine before men 
in such a way that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 NAS

#NaBloPoMo Day 2

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Time Has Come

Often I've sat here at my computer and wondered... is it time? Each time life has showed me it wasn't. But this time...

This time life is saying something different.

It's time.

For the past week I've been feeling nudges.
Today, when my sister Cheryl nudged me I almost fell off my chair. NaBloPoMo? No way. But even as I laughed that tiny flame I thought was out flared to life. Without stopping to think, afraid panic or sense would set in, I shot a text back to her. So, we've joined the NaBloPoMo over at BlogHer and we're going for it. Daily posts during November 5 to December 5.

Crazy? Possibly. But I know all too well that sometimes it takes a drastic step to get out of the rut you're in. This is me taking that necessary step. It's time to move forward again.

The time has come and I'm excited!
Anyone else doing this?

NaBloPoMo Day 1

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