Be Careful What You Ask For

Written by Diane Forler

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


I’m a pretty smart cookie, right?  College graduate, great career, wife and Mom, 3 time homeowner, world traveler, pretty much able to sort things out.  Most of the time.  But sometimes I amaze myself with my apparent stupidity.  Have you ever wished for something, prayed, even begged God for something, finally taken it into your own hands and made it happen yourself…then looked around and said “Uh-Oh”?  Of course, we all have.  We think we know what we need, and don’t necessarily wait for God’s answer when we ask for it, so convinced are we that this is the only answer, path to happiness, or solution to a problem.  We pray, that’s who we are, but then we plunge ahead without really seeking His answer.

I made a big decision that way back in the 80s that led to a move to a different city, and changed the course of my life.  I had 2 really “good” reasons to be certain this was God’s will:  the end of a relationship, and missing my Mom and Dad.  I vaguely remember telling God that I wanted to move (run away?), where I wanted to move to, and basically saying “OK, God?”  So I found a job, made the move, and life went on.  Maybe it WAS His will, maybe He made the job and everything else fall into place.  It’s possible, but at the time I really don’t think I waited on His answer.  I just up and went!  I was glad to be closer to home, made some good friends, and even moved forward in my faith.  But I have always wondered, what would my life be like now if I had waited on Him then.   Would I have married someone different, married younger, never married?  Would my career have gone in a different direction?  What other aspects of my life did He want to do differently?

It is my belief that when we make decisions on our own, without seeking Him, God, in His loving way, slaps the palm of His hand to His forehead and says “My child, what were you thinking?” – and desperately wants to intervene, give us a push in the direction He knows we should take.  But then, being our ABBA “Daddy”, He lets us stumble, then helps us pick up the pieces.  So many times He has done that for me, and now in my 60s I think I am finally catching on that taking the time to wait for Him is a really good idea.

Please don’t misunderstand, I do not regret my marriage and cannot imagine life without the exact kids I have.  I love my family deeply.  But it breaks my heart that they do not share my spiritual journey with me.  Maybe if I had sought His will better, my family would be part of my spiritual life.  I still know He has a plan for them, loves them and wants them for His own, and my prayer is for Him to use me or whomever or whatever He chooses to reach them and bring them closer to Him.  I am determined to keep praying and seeking His will until that happens in His way.  I am determined not to get in His way this time.

People are rallying in large groups today for causes that may or may not get them what they really want.  I just wonder how much God-seeking is going on, and how much people on both sides of these issues are only giving God lip service, praying but then plunging ahead without really seeking His guidance.  Sweeping changes are probably needed, and I hope that His will is a part of the changes we are rallying for. 

 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people…”) is quoted a lot these days.  Social issues that fly in the face of God’s word are not going to align with His will, and we as His Church must lead in the quest for His truth and His will in our world today.  We must love all people, meet people where they are, accept the differences we are going to see in our diverse society.  But when we are looking to set priorities and truly seek His will, we cannot compromise in our alignment to His word.  It is a challenging time for our Church and especially for our leaders, as we try to navigate the changes in our world.  It is my prayer that we seek, wait for, and follow His will unwaveringly so that His will is fulfilled.


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The Biggest Blessing

Written by Stephanie Taggart
 

In 1 Kings 19:19-21 we read about the call of Elisha.  While he was out plowing, Elijah came up to him and threw a cloak around him (meaning Elijah is passing the torch to Elisha – anointing him into his prophetic office).  Elisha asks, “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye and then I will come with you.”  It was important for Elisha to say goodbye to his parents as he was leaving to become a prophet. It would be a long time before he would see them again, if ever.

I couldn’t imagine being Elisha’s mother.  While the Bible doesn’t mention her perspective, I bet she was full of emotions.  I’m sure she was worried and sad, while at the same time she was feeling proud of what he had been called to do and what he was taking on.  

The biggest blessing ever bestowed upon me is that of being a parent.  It is also the hardest thing that that God has ever entrusted me to do.   We start out having children that rely on us for everything.  They can’t do anything for themselves and we are in charge of their every need.   They get a little older and we teach them how to do things for themselves.  Eventually, they enter young adulthood, and their independence is calling to them.  

As a new parent to this stage of life (young adulthood) I am realizing that this is the most difficult stage of parenting that I have done so far.  Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it,” I am holding onto this verse tightly, trusting that we have given our child the skills, lessons, and morals she will need to live her best life. We pray she will hang on to the love of God and the faith that we have brought her up with.

To be very honest, I am struggling with the balance between parenting and letting her soar.  Isn’t she still that little girl running through the house asking me to play dolls?  Isn’t she still the girl who wanted to sleep with me on the weekends and watch movies? Then it hits me: no she isn’t. She is a young adult who is trying to find her way in the world.  To do that, I have to let her go and I have to let her figure that out for herself. I have to let her know the struggle of making mistakes and the joy of success.

I know this isn’t even close to the level of Elisha’s mother watching her son leave knowing she may never see him again, but every time we let them fly, they go a little farther. Eventually, she won’t be back to our house and she will be living life on her own. One verse I have tried to instill in her is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

The job of being a parent is never done, no matter how old our kids are. I can’t tell you how many times I have called my mom asking her advice on what to do and how to handle certain things and issues that come up. I am constantly asking for advice on what to say or do in certain situations. What my daughter needs from me now is much bigger because the pressure on her is greater. She needs our time, our money, our counsel, and, of course, our prayers. 

Lately, I have felt like a robot praying for her – praying for the same things over and over. It hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday, her life isn’t the same thing over and over and her struggles aren’t the same thing over and over. I need to change my prayers. So, I got on the computer and looked up, “How to pray for my young adult”.   

I found 5 new ways to pray for her:

  1. Pray that she walks in wisdom – Ephesians 5:15-16
  2. Pray that she grows up – Luke 2:52
  3. Pray that she hangs out with wise friends – 1 Corinthians 15:33
  4. Pray that she seeks God – Jeremiah 29:12-13
  5. Pray that she embraces God’s plan for her life – Psalm 138:8

 

I know this will continue to be a hard time to parent, but I will be more diligent about praying for her and her future. I will continue to be there for her, and I will continue to remind her that I love her, and God loves her.  I will continue to pray for her constantly. I know God has great things in store for her and I can’t wait to see her flourish! 

 

I have a request from me to you. I would ask that as you say your prayers, say a prayer for all the young adults in the church.  Prayer is powerful!

 

 

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Asking Forgiveness Instead of Permission is Not Easier

Written by Tony Alstott

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness instead of permission,” has become a common statement that I first heard years ago.  I have been hearing it more and more lately to the point that it seems to have become a part of our American culture.  The first time I heard it I immediately felt uncomfortable.  I did not stop to analyze why until recently.

 

First, the statement implies that permission should be asked before proceeding with the action you plan to do.  Your action somehow crosses a boundary that would be a concern to the person you would eventually need to ask forgiveness from.  Not asking permission when you know you should ask permission is a willful and premeditated act.  You have thought about it beforehand and you made the decision not to ask permission.  It would be better to ask permission first rather than taking the easy way.

 

Second, it is deceptive.  When you do something without asking permission you are going behind someone’s back to accomplish something you want to do.  You do it without the person knowing about it until it is already done.  Deception is a form of lying by withholding the truth. It would be better to be honest up front by asking permission instead of being deceptive and then later asking for forgiveness.

 

Third, the course of action creates distrust.  You have the opportunity to be trustworthy by asking permission before moving forward with your intended action.  By intentionally not asking permission first, you have created distrust.  It would be better to ask permission to create on ongoing relationship of trust instead of moving forward with your action. 

 

Fourth, you devalue the person when you choose not to ask permission.  You have decided that what you want to accomplish is more important than the person whose permission you need to ask.  It would be better to ask permission to show that you value the person more than the task you want to accomplish.

 

Fifth, when you ask forgiveness for something when you could have asked permission first, your apology is empty.  You really aren’t sorry for what you did.  You are glad you did it.  You feel justified in doing it.  You did it without consideration of the person you would hurt or the boundary you would cross.  You are really not asking forgiveness at all.  It would be better to care enough to ask permission.

 

God has called me to point people to God and point Christians to the mission field.  Forgiveness is an important part of Christianity.  Jesus forgave us.  We are to forgive one another.  When we ask someone to forgive us, there is an expectation that they must forgive us if we are Christian.  When we willingly cross a boundary without asking permission, with the intent of asking forgiveness, what are we doing?  Are we taking advantage of the person knowing that they must forgive as Jesus forgave?  Are we being selfish, seeking our own gain, at the expense of others?  Is it really easier to ask forgiveness than permission?  Is taking the easy way the goal of the Christian believer?  Perhaps asking forgiveness instead of permission may be easier for the short term but not for the long term.  When we take advantage of other people through deceptive means, I would say that it is harder rather than easier.  It’s easier to ask permission than it is to mend a broken relationship.  It’s easier to build trust than it is to earn the trust of the one you have deceived.  

 

Jesus said to love God and love one another.  Asking forgiveness instead of asking permission is not how we love one another.  Peter encourages us to “love one another deeply from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). We love one another by being honest, by respecting boundaries, and by valuing people as God’s handiwork. 

 


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Renewing Your Mind While Watching Someone You Love Suffer

Written by Laura Swessel

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Dementia is such a cruel and mysterious disease, especially for the family and friends of those afflicted with it.  Every phase presents you with a totally different person.  I have watched one of the most independent women – military veteran (one of the first female Air Force officers), young widow (losing her husband at age 48 when I was 19, and my brother was only 10 years old), brilliant musician, and role model – struggle with this disease for almost 5 years (probably longer as I look back and reflect on what I now know are early signs).  First, it seemed like she had a hard time concentrating, always starting something new before completing the task at hand, which led to a very cluttered household – atypical of the woman who raised me.  Then, it was minor forgetfulness – missing an appointment or not remembering an outing we had taken a few months back.  Now, recalling what she had for breakfast just a few hours later is a major task.  The mystery (or maybe the blessing) of what it has not robbed from her is her love for and ability to do crossword puzzles and Sodoku and (of course) to play the organ.

The purpose of Paul’s letter to the Romans is to give a summary of all that is required to live a life that is pleasing to God, especially in times of trouble.  Romans 12:12 gives three traits (joy, patience and faithfulness) and a context for each of them.  The second and third items are quite easy to relate to a caregiver’s concerns for a loved one suffering from dementia.  Patience in affliction is most definitely needed as your loved one struggles to come up with the correct words, tries to pull a memory out of muddled thoughts, or just simply attempts to complete a basic task.

Being “faithful in prayer” has taken on many different forms throughout this process.  First, there is the obvious in that I pray every day that medical advances will slow down the progression of the disease or at least lessen her anxiety.  Secondly, as I gradually took over her financial and medical decisions, I began (and continue) to pray for guidance.  Lastly, I pray for the ability to navigate the many changes in her abilities and also to find creative ways to encourage her and to accentuate the strengths and skills she still possesses.

Being “joyful in hope”, though, is probably the most difficult of the three.  What does that mean and how does it apply to someone who is dealing with a chronic, progressively debilitating disease like dementia?  For me, the hope lies in the hope that advancements in the treatment and prevention of dementia will mean that another generation will not have to suffer or watch a loved one suffer with the disease.

I’d like to close by including one other verse. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances”.  I am grateful that my mother’s dementia has not progressed as quickly as others.  I am also thankful for the incredible community of other caregivers I have met while visiting my mother – many of them not as fortunate as I am.  My mother’s long-term memory is still mostly intact.  So, we can reminisce about events and activities we have experienced together, and she can still tell me stories about her childhood and early adulthood.  Although, I wish I would have started this project earlier, the situation of other people who can no longer share these memories with their parents has inspired me to start keeping a journal of memories my mother shares with me in preparation for the time when she will no longer be able to remember them by herself.


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Sharing A Meal

Written by Cindy Music

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow Me,” Jesus said to him and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors? Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27-31

 

Awhile back there was a question of the week about what your favorite meal is. I remember answering, “One shared with family or friends.”

There are a lot of dynamics that happen during a meal. Have you ever noticed that people seem to gather and linger where the food is being prepared and set out at a party? I remember as a little girl how my mom, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins would all be together in the kitchen at family gatherings. The conversations, laughter, and sharing of recipes. Mostly sharing a part of their lives with each other.

Meal time is where conversations about life happen. It’s where we share with each other stories, opinions, our thoughts on various topics, and sometimes the challenges we are facing. Dinner is when we often ask how work was for the day, what our children did at school, or schedules for the next day or week.

First dates often happen over food. It’s an opportunity for a couple to get to know some things about each other. A time to explore whether they want to go on a second date. People sometimes talk about their hopes and dreams for the future together.

We can learn a lot about ourselves and others when we sit down to share a meal. As kids we learn how to share by splitting the last roll with a sibling. It can be a time to experience something new, like squash. We learn what topics are appropriate to discuss when others are eating. It is where we learn to pray and give thanks to God for all we have received from Him.

What I have really noticed over the years is that sharing a meal with family and friends isn’t about the food served. It is about the relationships that are created and nurtured. It’s about spending time getting to know about someone else. Sharing in theirs joys, laughter, struggles, and disappointments. It is an opportunity to spend time investing in the lives of the people around you.

Jesus thought that eating with others was an important time. He shared meals with all kinds of people. He saw it as an opportunity to create relationships and share the gospel. He didn’t care about their past, how wealthy they were, or what kind of food they offered Him. It was always about getting personal with those around Him.

Last year left little opportunity for gathering in person with others. Even my introverted husband said recently that we need to have dinner with some friends because he had missed them. This year I am planning on more meals with family, friends, and new friends that I haven’t met yet.

 

We all have to eat, so why not do it together?

 


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How can the “Truth Set You Free”?

Written by Ron Van Tyle, U.S.M.C. Veteran
 

In John 8:31 -32 Jesus speaks to the believing Jews and says, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”

 

During this time of year we as a people and a nation are challenged to remember what these verses really mean. What is Truth? What is Freedom? Two different questions.

 

God says in His Word in 1 Peter 2:16, Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; but live as bondservants to God.

 

Freedom must be practiced.

 

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. William Faulkner

 

Have we too much freedom? Have we so long ridiculed authority in the family, discipline in education, rules in art, decency in conduct, and law in the state that our liberation has brought us close to chaos in the family and the school, in morals, arts, ideas, and government? We forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves free.  Will Durant

 

We proclaim ourselves as indeed we are: the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. Edward R. Morrow

 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

These few quotes were man’s thoughts and they give us the need to remember what God’s Word says to us about freedom. 
 
2 Corinthians 3:17, 17: Now the LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom.
 
Galatians 5:1,1: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 
 
Galatians 5:13-14,13: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

James 1:25, 25: But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it-they will be blessed in what they do.
 

 

The only way we can be free is to be totally free in Christ Jesus. ALL of God’s Word is Truth. Christ came to gives us the Truth and set us Free.

 

So as a nation “We The People” celebrate our Freedom’s, let us remember it is because of God’s Truth we are Free indeed!

 

Only though Christ Jesus can we be Free!


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