“How Can I Help?”

“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us.  Strength is for service, not status.  Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”  Romans 15:1-2 (The Message)

I came across this verse in my devotions yesterday.  In the New King James Version the verse read, “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.”

Of course, I’ve read this verse many times before as I’ve studied the book of Romans, but yesterday it really grabbed my attention.  I think it was “scruples” that popped out at me.  It seemed an odd word to be in the Bible, and in fact, the King James uses the word “infirmities.”  At any rate, my curiosity was piqued and I pulled out a few other translations to see how they put it.

These verses were a reminder to me that God commands His people to look around them to see how they can help their neighbors.  From the story of the Good Samaritan, I know that my neighbor is any person God puts in my path.  I need to be watchful for others who need a hand and offer mine.  The needs may be spiritual, emotional, physical, or financial.  God doesn’t expect me to solve everyone’s problems, but He does expect me to offer service to those He brings to my attention.

The popular Bible teacher Bruce Wilkinson (author of The Prayer of Jabez and The Dream Giver) personalizes this question to open doors of opportunity to help others without interferring where he is not wanted.  When he feels the Holy Spirit impressing upon him to offer assistance to someone, he approaches them and simply asks “How may I help you?”  It is direct and to the point.  Often the person’s first reaction is to deny needing his help.  When Bruce persists, they open up and share their problems.  Sometimes God directs Bruce to meet the need immediately by giving the person money; other times God direct Bruce to provide godly counsel; and occasionally Bruce simply prays for the person.  Bruce based his approach on the example of Elisha the prophet in the story of the Widow’s Oil (2 Kings 4:1 – 7).

The key to being of service to others is to be open to the nudge of the Holy Spirit that a person in your vicinity is in need and God is going to use you to help in the situation.   I urge you to pray that your heart will be attuned to the nudging of the Holy Spirit to assist someone in need today.  As you look around, ask “How can I help?”

If  God has directed you through the nudging of the Holy Spirit to recognize and assist to a person in need, please consider sharing your story as a means of encouraging others.

Learning to Accept and Embrace Change

Change is something I rarely seek and often resist, but lately God has been working on me to accept and embrace change.  I’m not speaking about change that arises from boredom or the desire to do something different, but meaningful change.  Changes that leads to a better way of doing things or  spiritual or emotional growth is productive and healthy.  But, it so much easier to stick with what we know than it is to change.

Amidst several staffing changes at our church recently, my pastor said to me, “People see change as bad.  Change isn’t good or bad.  It’s just different.” I don’t think he was saying that because he felt I was resisting the changes that had taken place; however, I do believe the Holy Spirit inspired him to make that comment to me at that time.

I know that he’s right and that the changes that took place were God ordained, but I would have preferred that things had stayed the same.  I liked the people who moved on to other callings and I couldn’t envision our church without them.  While I still miss them, I have accepted that God had a plan and His plan is best.  Those who moved on are ministering in congregations that needed them and new leaders are being developed from members of our congregation. Those particular changes have provided new opportunities for growth in leadership for members of our congregation.  The new leaders have stepped up to the challenge and God is blessing their work.

I think some of my resistance to change has its roots in my childhood.  Growing up as the daughter of a Marine, I attended 6 different elementary school in four different states.  Just as we settled into a new home and a new community, Dad would get orders and we’d be off again.  My sisters and I would have to get accustomed to a new school and make new friends.  I was constantly saying good bye to old friends.  Of course, each move allowed us to meet new people and make new friends.  God used these moves to bring people into our lives that lead our family to Him and helped us grow.  He also used those changes to help me quickly become comfortable in new situations and taught me to reach out to those who are new and make them feel welcome.

I know that changes that God initiates are for His glory and my growth.  I trust that God loves me more than I love myself. The changes He wants for me will help me to become more Christ-like and to draw closer to God.  I want to not only accept those changes but learn to embrace and celebrate them.  My ultimate desire is to honor God in all that I do each day and I can only do that as I allow Him to change me and my circumstances to conform with His will.  I don’t know what changes God has planned for me in the coming months and years, but I fully trust Him and know that those changes are for my ultimate good.

Girls Ministries Honor Celebration

Last night our church held its annual Girls Ministries Honor Celebration.    The Girls Ministries program includes seven club and ministers to girls from birth through high school graduation.  Our preschool clubs, Sunlight Kids and Rainbows, also includes little boys.  The Honor Celebration marks the end of our “academic” year in Girls Ministries and celebrates the achievements of each girl and boy in the program.

 

Our Rainbow club is made up of 3 and 4 year old boys and girls.

 

From the earliest ages, the children are taught Biblical principles.   They earn badges by completing a unit consisting of 4 or 6 lessons and memorizing a memory verse for that unit. In the younger classes, those who complete the required number of units in their program graduate with “Honor” and are recognized as Honor Rainbows, Honor Daisies, and Honor Prims.  The older classes require additional work, including Bible reading, memorizing the Assemblies of God Statement of Faith, and being tested on all their memory verses to be recognized as Honor Stars, Honor Friends, and Honor Girls Only.

One of the highlights of the program is being crowned an Honor Star.  The Stars class is for girls in third through fifth grade.  To be crowned an Honor Star, a young girl has to read the entire New Testament, complete 27 units and nine Honor requirements.  Honor requirements include memorizing the names of the books of the Old and New Testaments, memorizing the Lord’s prayer, doing a study of the life of Christ, keeping a prayer journal, and memorizing several other scriptures.  It is quite a feat for an 11-year old girl to complete the requirements to be recognized as an Honor Star.

Last night four of our girls were crowned Honor Stars.  They are beautiful young ladies inside and out.  I am very proud of them and all that they have accomplished.

Three of our newly crowned Honor Stars with two of last year’s Honor Stars.

I have been privileged to be a part of Girls Ministries for more than 40 years, first as a girl in the program and since 1979 as a teacher.  The Girls Ministries program, as well as our boys’ program called Royal Rangers, impart truths of God’s Word to children at a very young age and prepare them to be Christian leaders in the families, churches, and communities. 

Recommitting to Living Intentionally

In late February I wrote a blog about choosing “My One Word” for 2012.  I choose the word intentional and declared my intentions of “focusing my time and energy on what is truly important rather than simply responding to situations that present themselves.”  It’s now mid-June and the year will soon be half over.  It’s time to take stock of how I’ve done, and the scorecard is not encouraging, although it is not as dismal as I thought it might be.

I previously declared my goals to be intentional (1) in getting deeper into God’s Word and growing closer to Him, (2) in seeking His will for every aspect of my life, (3) in putting relationships ahead of accomplishing a to-do list, and (4) in taking steps to maintain my health, which will include losing weight and exercising more.  I also declared that I would spend less time mindlessly watching whatever show happens to be on television or surfing the Internet, less time playing Solitaire and Angry Birds, and less time stressing over situations that may or may not occur and that won’t matter to me a week later.  

Of course, as soon as you declare a course of action, it seems as if life conspires to interfere with your plans.  Shortly after writing my Intentional blog, we made an offer on a house, my brother-in-law died Bob unexpectedly, we closed on our house and moved, and we began a major renovation project.  Chaos ensued and I found myself reacting to situations rather than focusing my time and attention in productive ways.  We are now somewhat settled into the new house, we are adjusting to the big hole left in our lives by Bob’s absence, and the master bath renovation is awaiting shower doors to be complete.

It’s time to get my life back to some semblance of normalcy and my focus back on being intentional in my actions.  During this period of great distractions, I was faithful in my daily devotions.  I start each day by spending time reading the Bible and asking God to help me glorify Him in all that I do.  I think it is human nature to seek God’s help and draw closer to Him in troubled times and that was certainly true for me.   That is the positive side of the scorecard.

On the negative side, I’ve fallen back into old habits of playing solitaire and wasting time reading meaningless tripe on the Internet. I justify these time-wasting activities as stress relief; however, I am generally more stressed afterwards because nothing has been crossed off my to-do list.  I have managed to lose 4 pounds–not much for four months of denying myself bread and potatoes, but at least it is a loss and not a gain.  It probably goes without saying that I haven’t been exercising.  And I haven’t been writing.  My third novel which was to be completed by May 1 is no further along than it was in February.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.”  That sounds like a good plan for my life.  So, I hereby repent of my lack of living intentionally and declare that I will turn from my sin and rededicate myself to those noble goals which I set earlier this year.  For the remainder of 2012, I will live intentionally and make the most of each day and each opportunity to grow in my relationship with God and those most important in my life and to improve my health.

Winning the Amazing Race of Life

Yesterday I watched the finale of the Amazing Race as the last three teams standing vied to cross the finish line first and claim the million dollar prize.  Each team made a major mistake in the final leg that could have cost them the race.

Art and J.J. appeared to be out of the race when they couldn’t decipher a riddle sending them to twin skyscraper.  They bounded back into second place when Rachel and Brendon hurriedly read a clue and missed an important piece of information.  Rachel and Dave seemed to have cruised to an easy win, only to be informed that they had missed a challenge. They hurried back to find Art and J.J. in the midst of the challenge. Fortunately for them, Art had a difficult time riding a narrow sled down a hill, while Rachel managed it with ease.  Rachel and Dave finished the challenge and were crowned the winners of this seasons Amazing Race.

As I watched the teams partake in extreme challenges, I had no doubt that I would never want to be a contestant on the Amazing Race.  Not even if I were young and fit.  I have no desire to repel off a 44-story building, as the final three teams did, or to haul buckets of manure as contestants did in a recent episode.

I was reminded, however, that we are all in an amazing race.  And this race is for much higher stakes than a million dollars.  Our participation in this race will determine our eternal future.  Those who “win” the race receive eternal life in Heaven as their reward. In the Amazing Race, there is only one winner; however, in the amazing race of life, we can all win.

Winning the amazing race of life requires accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Many people claim that there are other paths to God, but the Bible teaches us that “there is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Salvation is attained simply by acknowledging my need for salvation, believing that Jesus died on the cross as punishment for my sins, and confessing Him as lord of my life.

Winning the amazing race of life requires resisting the temptation to quit or be sidetracked.  Contestants in the Amazing Race face roadblocks, detours, and u-turns. Likewise, Satan tries to block our path, send us on detours, and u-turn us back to a life of sin and selfishness through temptation.  We can overcome Satan’s wiles by keeping our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. God promises that He will be there in your moment of temptation. “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corintians 10:13)

Winning the amazing race of life requires focus and dedication with your eye firmly on the prize. The Amazing Race contestants are highly motivated, as they want to win the million dollar prize. Paul explained in his first letter to the Corinthians that our goal in life is much more valuable. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)   He said toward the end of his life, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4: 7 -8)

Winning the amazing race of life involves making mistakes, acknowledging them, and getting back on track.  Contestants on the Amazing Race frequently take a wrong turn or misread the instructions and make a mistake.  They continue on the wrong path until they realize their mistake and have fallen behind in the race.  At that point they have the choice to quit and give up or turn around and keep competing.  Sometimes they are able to overcome their mistake and remain in the game; other times they are too far behind and are eliminated.  In life, when we acknowledge our mistakes (sins) and seek forgiveness, God promises to forgive our sins.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  Forgiveness gets us back on track with God.

Rachel and Dave were greeted by the cheers and applause of their competitors as they crossed the finish line and won the Amazing Race.  One day my life on Earth will be over and I will be transcended to Heaven where my Savior will be waiting and rejoicing that I have run a good race and have finished the course.

What path are you following in the race of life?  Can you look forward with joy and a grateful heart to a life in Heaven and a crown of righteousness?  If not, I pray that you will allow Jesus to guide and direct you to the path that leads to eternal glory and reward.

Grateful for New Home and Wonderful Neighbors

After a long and tiring search, we recently bought a new home.  We moved into our new home two weeks ago. 

While I love being in my new house, I have not enjoyed the moving process.  I am thoroughly convinced that moving is for the young and that those of us who have passed the half-century mark should stay put.  Or, as my husband suggested, we should change addresses without moving any of the stuff–simply leave it all behind and buy new stuff to be delivered to the new house.

As my knees creaked and my back ached from packing boxes and hauling them up and down stairs, I comforted myself with the knowledge that the pleasure of living in the new house would more than compensate for the physical pain I was enduring.  In my new house, I have a kitchen large enough to entertain my ever-growing family.  Steve and I can cook together without being in each others way.  I look forward to preparing holiday meals in the new kitchen with my mom, sisters, and daughters-in-law.  I can’t wait until my grandson and granddaughter are hold enough to sit at the bar and make cookies with grandma. There’s plenty of room for grandchild #3, due to arrive in late October.

The move was made easier by wonderful neighbors, both old and new.  As we moved furniture and boxes into our new house, we were welcomed royally into the neighborhood.  One neighbor brought us marigolds to plant in our yard, another dropped off freshly baked cookies, and a third gave us strawberries and lettuce straight from his garden.    We very much enjoyed and appreciated our neighbors’ generosity.

Some neighbors have gone above and beyond. Twice since we closed the deal on the house, we have pulled into the driveway to find our lawn freshly mowed by our very kind next door neighbor Charlie.  Our former, and also very wonderful, next door neighbor Susan offered to take any “stuff” we didn’t want to donate to her church’s garage sale. I’m sure she didn’t expect us to fill her garage.  We were grateful to be spared the extra work of hauling our unwanted belongings to the Good Will.  Susan even came over and carried much of the donations to her garage for us.

We still have much unpacking to do, and many more items to donate or throw away.  But, all our belongings are in our new house and it’s starting to feel like home.  While we will miss our old neighbors, we are looking foward to forging many new friendships with our wonderful new neighbors.

Response to “I Just Wish He Would Have an Affair”

Monique Honaman wrote a blog for the Huffington Post recently in response to a comment she has heard numerous times lately:  “I just wish he would have an affair.”  The women who have confided this desire assert that they are married to wonderful men whom they no longer love.  These wives can not “justify” divorcing husbands who treat them well, love them and their children, and provide for their families.  If their husbands would betray them by having affairs, then the woman would be free to leave them without feeling guilty.

Ms. Honaman concluded that she didn’t have an answer for women in this circumstance; however, she postulated two opposing views that she could justify as reasonable responses.  Paraphrasing her words, the views would be (1) you made a vow, so stick with the marriage and (2) end the marriage because life is short to be unhappy.  You may read Ms. Honaman complete blog at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/monique-honaman/i-just-wish-he-would-have_b_1297919.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl12%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D141998

While the two views Ms. Honoman expresses are probably the two most common responses to a friend’s or acquaintances’s declaration that she is unhappy in her marriage, neither of them offer the guidance that is needed.  All marriages go through “dry” times.  Love is an emotion that ebbs and flows.  Just because a woman does not feel the glow of being in love, doesn’t mean she cannot regain that feeling.  So what advise should someone give to a friend who expresses discontent with a good marriage?  These are lessons I’ve learned from my own 31-year marriage and observing others, such as my parents who have been married for 57 years.

1) Focus on the attributes that drew you to your husband in the beginning of your relationship.  If you are like most brides, you were head over heels in love with him on the day you walked down the aisle.  Think back on those days and remember how you felt when your love was new.  Your husband is still the same wonderful man you married with the same wonderful qualities.

2) Regularly make time for dates.  Marriage needs to be nurtured.  When you first began dating your future spouse, few things in your life were more important than spending time with him.  In the hecticness of life, time alone with one’s spouse often takes a back seat to work, children, and volunteering.  You can’t nurture your relationship if you aren’t spending quality time with your spouse.

3) Create opportunities for growth and fulfillment such as working on a project with your spouse or taking a class together.  Having a common goal and achieving it together can restore a sense of unity and accomplishment.  In the early days of a marriage, a couple makes plans together, such as starting a family or buying a house.  They work together for their mutual happiness and fulfillment.  As those goals are met, it’s easy for couple to become complacent.  Set new goals and dreams that will carry you into old age.

4) Look beyond your present unhappiness and envision the happy times ahead for the two of you.  If you have children, you can look forward to their graduations and marriages and future grandchildren.  Plan a special trip to commerate a significant anniversary.  Dream about the places you’ll go and the things you will do after retirement.

5) Remember your vows. You pledged to love this man through better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death you do part.  At the end of the ceremony, the minister pronounced you husband and wife.  He did not say “And they lived happily ever after.”  Of course you want to be happy and you deserve to be happy.  But happiness is fleeting.  No one is happy all the time, and no one is unhappy all the time.  If you stay true to your vows and work at loving your husband, it is very likely that happiness will return and that you will be even happier than you were in the past.

If you are unhappy in your marriage, I would urge to carefully consider the cost of divorce.  Not only is divorce the biggest financial mistake you can make, it is one that many people regret. It is likely that you are married to the love of your life–you just need to make an effort to rekindle the love that lead you to marry him.