Friday, June 27, 2008

Take Me Down to the River: Passing Through the Waters, Part II
More Musings on Isaiah 43:1-3a

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you."

Fire and water represent many things in the Bible, and it would be hard to do an exhaustive study of that in a blog. We've looked at Isaiah 43:1-3a about how God promises to be with us in the trials of life, and we've applied that promise to motherhood. There is another sense in which children of God pass through fire and water without being destroyed, and that is because God saves us from the penalty and condemnation of our sins. In the final judgment, those who have accepted God's offer of salvation by faith and grace and have walked in faith and faithfully with him will come through unscathed. Heaven -- an eternity with the Lord -- awaits them.

God is with us in the waters! Peter uses the story of Noah passing through the flood safely to teach us truth about what happens when we believe and are baptized. He says, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is eight persons, were brought safely through water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." I Peter 3:18-21

When Paul was opposing the Lord, the Lord revealed himself to him. At that moment, Paul became a believer in the Lord, who was willing to do anything the Lord told him to do. He was blinded from seeing the Lord. God sent Ananias to Paul to restore his sight and to explain to Paul that he was to be a witness of what he had seen and heard. Surely, Paul was believing, humble, broken, and repentant. Still, one vital thing was missing.

Ananias said, "And now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his Name." It wasn't until that point that Paul's sins were washed away. (Acts 22:1-16)

Paul tells us in Colossians 2:10-14, "and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead; and when you were dead in your transgression and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.

Paul also tells us in Romans 6:3-8: Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slave to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.

In light of all that God does for us in baptism, it's no accident that when Peter preaches the first sermon teaching people how to become Christians, he stresses its importance. When many of his hearers realized that Jesus was Lord and Savior, they were cut to the heart. They asked Peter what they should do.

In Acts 2:38-39 Peter said, "Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord shall call to Himself."

So, exactly what does happen when a believer walks with God through the waters of baptism? There are plenty of other scriptures that talk about this, but just based on the ones we've looked at

1) As in Paul's conversion, our sins are washed away and we call on the name of the Lord to save us.
2) Just as Noah and his family were saved from the physical judgment that came upon the world in his day, we are saved
3) God circumcises our hearts, taking away the fleshly nature and giving us new life; baptism is a response of faith on our part to the power of the resurrection; God's power is what saves us in baptism.
4) We are buried with Christ and raised with him; we are given new life; we know that we will live with Him for eternity; our old fleshly self is done away with and we are born to live a new life in Christ, created to be like Him. It is at this point that we are born again.
5) This is the point at which our belief, our understanding that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and our repentance -- our turning from living for self and sin to living for Christ -- meets God's saving power. We are given the Holy Spirit. Our sins are forgiven. This promise is for all whom the Lord shall call to Himself.

What a beautiful way that God is with us in the waters!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you...
Mothers and Isaiah 43:1-3a

When God made this promise, Israel had literal images to look back to: God parted the waters so that they could pass through on dry land and, thus, escape from their Egyptian pursuers.

Also, they new the story of Noah. I Peter 3:20-21 tells us, " the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

As mothers of children, we can relate to passing through water because of the "rivers" of responsibility we feel with so much to do and so much to take care of.

What is that commercial saying? "Life comes at you fast?" Sometimes, the rhythm of life makes us feel "swept away". Our lives are so incredibly full of blessings and tasks, good times and challenges, that it all just moves us right along, as if on a swiftly moving current. We look back and wonder where the time went. Our precious baby is now a toddler, and our toddler is now in grammar school and so forth, until our child is grown.

The very brand new mother is especially prone to feeling this. She is up nursing baby during the night, and she changes a countless diapers during the day. She enjoys the time with your beautiful baby. At the end of a day, however, when someone asks her what she did with her day, she's hard pressed to think of exactly what she accomplished.

Here's where some reassurance is helpful: New Mother, if you loved God and your husband and your baby, your day was meaningful!! As the baby grows, you'll be able to add back in some other tasks over the next few weeks and months.

I think the second busiest time of childrearing is when you have one or more preteens in your home. Preteens, by definition, are somewhere between children and adolescents, and they have many needs. This is when they have one foot in adulthood and one foot in childhood. This can be a really fun time in parenting. (I found that each stage of childrearing has its own joy.) However, it is also a time when our children need a lot of love and attention -- not to mention taxiing here and there! It can be a time when are prone to feeling "swept away".

Again, God promises that he will be with us in the rivers of life and mother. The waters of responsibility will not overflow us or sweep us away, he says. He won't give us so much that we flail along in the currents. If we are mindful of his presence in our lives, our hours and days will be rich, full, and satisfying. We will be able to concentrate on the moment at hand, rather than letting our mind race to the next thing that needs to be done. We can enjoy each stage of our children's growing up.

Luke 2:19 tells us Mary treasured up all the wondrous events surrounding Jesus' birth and early years. Of course, her situation was a little different than ours, and she was absorbing the great truth that her son was the Messiah and the son of God. Nonetheless, bearing or bringing any child into our home is an amazing experience. To watch our child grow up gives us many opportunities to ponder beautiful moments and store away wonderful memories. As we pass through the waters of daily life with God, we have much to be thankful for and to rejoice in. Taking note of those blessings and filing them away in our memory will keep us from having that "swept along with the tide" feeling.

Similarly, careful planning combined with a flexible attitude helps us to pass through the waters without being overwhelmed. Planning best begins by submitting our schedule to the Lord, so that He can walk us through the waters.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.
More Musings on Mothers and Isaiah 43:1-3a

A friend of mine shared from her life how she applied this concept, "When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." She is someone who has suffered much, yet remains calm and joyful. Her thoughts inspired me to think about this more deeply. So, what I'll share today was partly inspired by her example.

God does not promise that we will never pass through fires. We can think of fires as the trials of life. They are part of living in a fallen world.

I Peter 1:6-7 tells us "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

God uses the fires of life to test and refine our faith, so that our faith may result in praise and glory. He does not pretend that these flames are not painful. He promises, however, that he will work them for good if we love the Lord and are called according to his promise. Romans 8:28. He also reminds us that we are on our way to heaven, where there will be no more sorrow or pain.

What are the fires in your life?

I think Peter is speaking to a group who were undergoing persecution, and everyone who wants to live a godly life will face that in some form or another. (2 Timothy 3:2) We should not be surprised by the presence of persecution in our lives, but by the absence of it.

In the U.S., persecution comes mostly in the form of verbal rejection, but there are many in the world who undergo torture and even death for their faith. Even so, being ridiculed or verbally attacked or rejected can be a stinging fire in your life. Jesus tells us that we can and should rejoice when this happens, for the the joy of our reward in heaven is greater than the pain of rejection on this earth. (Matthew 6:10-13)

Right now, it seems our culture is bent on undermining the faith of the young. At some point, your children will pass through the flames of persecution, either by peers or by future professors, bosses, and other people of authority in their lives. It's wise to give our children the tools to help them trust in the Lord and pass through the flame without their faith burning away. Pray with them and for them and give them a good foundation in God's word. Trust that God loves your children and will be there for them as they pass through the fire.

There are other fires we might face, as well. Some of the ones I've faced are losing two children to miscarriage, health challenges, times in life when it seemed there were more needs to meet than I could handle, concerns for children, surgery, hurts in relationships, people I love turning from the Lord, reaching middle age and reckoning with dreams that didn't turn out the way I thought they would, being the victim of a crime, battling sin and character flaws, etc.

These trials are so trivial compared to what many people face in the world that I am almost ashamed to jot down this list. Still, even a little trial requires us to lean on God in faith to walk through the fire without getting scorched or burned. In fact, sometimes, it's the tiny irritants that get under our skin and threaten to undo our peace. How wonderful it is to be able to claim the promise in any situation -- great or small -- that the fires will not consume us.

We've all met or have even been women who've been burned by fires. Sometimes the women we meet bear the scorch marks of big fires, such as child abuse or divorce.

We even have a phrase for this in our language. If we have been lied to or mistreated by someone or if our dreams don't work out, we say, "I got burned."

To me, some symptoms of being burned are
1) Barely hanging on to our faith, but losing our passion for the Lord; blending in with the world instead of being salt and light; losing our joy
2) Pulling back from relationships in fear of getting hurt again;
3) Unresolved anger, bitterness, hardness, hidden sorrow, not being ourselves around people but hiding behind a polite mask
4) Letting nervousness and fear, rather than faith rule our thoughts.
5) Finding it hard to trust the Lord and people; always trying to be in control; manipulating others

When I find myself experiencing any of the above symptoms, I know that I have not been fully relying on God to carry me through the flames. It's easy for me to think I'm trusting the Lord when things are going well. In the flames, I find out where I've really put my faith.

Fortunately, if do we look inside and recognize scorch marks on our hearts, God can heal us. Also, God provides us with opportunities to reach out in love to women who have been burned by life.

How can we walk through fires without getting burned in the first place? Here are a few

A. Pray about everything; worry about nothing; cast your burdens on the Lord; fix your thoughts on wholesome things; look for reasons to be thankful; keep on doing what is right - Phil. 4:4-9
B. Be honest about your feelings, even if they aren't pretty. In your anger or distress do not sin, but don't try to pretend you are not in pain. Read the psalms and notice how David worked through his emotions as he went through trials. Talk to God and to a few trusted friends. Seek the prayers of others as you pass through the trials.
C. Have a list of "anchor" scriptures -- scriptures that bring comfort. In a time of trial, you might not be able to focus on a deep Bible study. If a loved one is in the hospital, for example, your schedule will be out of whack and you might not be able to focus on something that requires a lot of concentration. In those moments, it's handy to have soothing scriptures in your mind and heart on which you can meditate.
D. Make every effort to reach out to others in love, even while you are going through trial. This will help your own frame of mind.

As mothers, it's often easier to pass through our own fires than it is to watch our children encounter heartaches and struggles. There are times when it is appropriate for us to protect our children. However, there are times when it is better for us to let them walk through a little fire, so that they can become strong in faith and in character. This takes faith, prayer, wisdom, and knowing what our child is or is not ready to handle. While there are exceptions to every rule, women lean towards being over-protective of their children. Often, fathers or other male figures can help us out here. This is particularly true when it comes to rearing a boy, because boys follow a slightly different path to maturity than girls do. I know my husband helped me and still helps me not to be over-protective of both our children. (On the other hand, since we were girls once, we may have to gently provide our husbands with an understanding of how girls mature.)

What a beautiful promise from the Lord that the flames of life will not consume us if we are in a right relationship with Him! How great it is to know that as he leads mothers through the fires of life, he leads and protects children, as well. As long as we walk with Him, we need not fear. The fires may sting, but they will not destroy.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

God tells us in Isaiah 43:1-3a of his intimate care for his children. Then, he tells those of us who are his children not to fear.

Why did he tell us this? Perhaps, it is because it is our human nature to look at the circumstances of life and to become afraid. We so easily forget that God promised that he will bring his children safely through trials and will lead mothers and their young to heaven.

Isaiah 40:11 is perhaps my favorite verse when it comes to motherhood:

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them gently in His bosom. He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
If you are God's child, Jesus walks with you in your parenting. He carries your children. He gently leads you! Isn't that a comforting thought? We can rest in that.

The admonition "Fear not" is especially important to wives and mothers. (I Peter 3:1-7). Have you ever noticed that when you learn you are going to have or adopt a child, you find things that you could worry about that you never thought of before!! You hear all kinds of information about the dangers of childhood. Your toddler finds things to stick in his or her mouth that you never dreamed of.

Then, new challenges come. Before you know it, they're out there driving in heavy traffic! You couldn't wait to get your own license, but it's a different thing altogether now that your baby has turned sixteen.

If we aren't careful, we mothers can take our eyes off the Lord and turn them to the "what if's" of life. The cure for that is to fear the Lord and not our "what ifs".

I look back now and see how God helped us through so many adventures in life and how he's still working in the lives of our family. It's my sinful nature, though, to be easily distracted with the worries of life. When my children were small, I found out that my mother was dying of a slow and painful disease. The church we were in faced some heavy questions about unity and direction. I was in a minor car accident with my children. Though my children were safe -- praise be to the Lord -- my neck was injured, which set me up for chronic pain. Also, my young and healthy body suddenly faced physical challenges that made me feel older than my years.

In the midst of all that, I found myself not doing as Jesus commanded, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own."

If I was doing dishes, I was thinking how I needed to travel to help my dad with my mother. If I was with my kids, I was thinking of the dishes in the sink. If I was doing something with church, I was thinking about the things that needed doing at home and vice versa.

It wasn't always like that, of course. God gave me many wonderful times of faith and blessing. Still, that sin of worry was definitely a factor in my life.

If I had to do it over again, I'd be more in the moment. I'd would trust more in God's love and meditate more on passages such as Isaiah 43:1-31 and Isaiah 40:11. I would focus on whatever I was doing in that moment and let the next task worry about itself. Those moments with our young children are so precious, and they pass so quickly. We don't want to spend those moments in distraction, which is what worry is.

To overcome this tendency takes a growing faith and trust in God. I think we as women underestimate the effect that having a faithful, gentle, and calm spirit has on our household, on our neighbors, our friends, our extended family -- on all the people with whom we interact. (I Peter 3:1-7). God says this calm and gentle spirit is beautiful in his sight. Even if we are down to our last mustard seed of faith, God says he can do wonders with it.

Sometimes, we need the help of others to pray for us and to teach us from God's word and their lives how to have this calm and gentle spirit. I know that now, even though my children are adults, I still get advice and help in parenting from my husband and my closest friends in the Lord.

Having faith helps us to set priorities in parenting. If we understand from verses like Isaiah 43:1-3 God's desire to have an intimate relationship with us, we will place our highest priority on helping our children have a great relationship with God and with us. Of course, we want to teach them the practical aspects of life: how to study, how to work, etc. However, we will seek for them Christ's righteousness and his kingdom first. (Matthew 6:33). Our emphasis should be on character and obedience.

Too often young mothers become uptight over issues like potty training, when their child gives up nursing, if they are nursing just right to help their baby, when their baby walks, etc. Later on, they may focus on how their child dresses or make issues of other things.

A good question to ask ourselves as mothers is, "Is this a question of love, faith, obedience, or character? Is it a question of relationship?" If not, is this something I really want to make an issue of? Generally, a child has an inbuilt time for things like potty training, giving up nursing, walking, etc. We may need to help them gently, but these things are seldom issues of character and are generally not worth having battles over.

For example, suppose your child is old enough to make some clothing choices for him- or her-self. The child dresses modestly. However, the child's taste is quite different from yours --at least in this stage of life. If the child is not sinning in the mode of dress, perhaps you might allow them to make some choices you wouldn't make. Kids outgrow fads, anyway. Now, if the child's choices reflect immodesty, impurity, selfishness, undue materialism, or a general attitude of rebellion -- that's another matter.


Monday, June 23, 2008

He Calls Me by Name!
Part II: Moms and Isaiah 43:1-3a

Being a mother has taught me a lot about God's love. God uses many examples drawn from the parent/child relationship to teach us truths about his infinite and perfect care for us. Whenever we need to understand this better, we can turn to these examples for help.

In Isaiah 43:1-3a, God tells his children that he formed them; redeemed them, and called them by name. He says to them, "You are Mine!".

God created us. He formed us. Thus, he knows what makes us tick. He knows what we need and when we need it. He knows what makes us sad and what makes us happy. He knows what is best for us, even when we can't see it ourselves.

It's exciting to me that he calls His own by name. This idea is made even more personal in John 10:3-5, where Jesus tells us that God calls his individual sheep by name.

"and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out..the sheep follow him because they know his voice and a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee."

Jesus offers us such a beautiful intimacy of relationship! Jesus watches over each of us who are His. He invites us to know him on such a deep level that we respond to His voice. He invites each of us by name to follow Him.

Isn't there something special about hearing someone you love or care about call your name? Do you remember being picked to be on someone's team for a game on the playground? Weren't you glad to hear your name called? Didn't it make you feel wanted? Or, was there a time when your name didn't get called or you got called last? Do you remember how forlorn that made you feel? I do.

Or, was there ever a time in your childhood when you were frightened by the dark and you cried out? Did you hear a parent call your name as he or she came walking toward your room? Once you heard your parent's voice, didn't that make everything all right? If a young child is upset, he doesn't respond well to a stranger's voice. He wants Mommy or Daddy.

Even now that I am an adult, I love my husband's voice. If I am upstairs when he comes home and I hear him calls my name, it delights me. If he travels out of town, and I hear his voice on the phone, calling my name, it comforts me.

In the same way, if we know Jesus, we love hearing his voice in the Word. We run to it. We seek it out. We follow the sound of his voice. We obey his teaching, because we trust His love and wisdom.

In listening to Jesus' voice, we are protected from following the stranger's voice. The stranger's voice calls to us loudly and often. (Proverbs Chapter Nine)

Sometimes, the stranger will disguise his voice so that it seems innocent. When Jesus spoke of going to the cross in Matthew 16, Peter tried to stop him. Perhaps, the cross didn't fit Peter's view of what the Messiah had come to do. Or, perhaps, he didn't want his teacher and friend to suffer.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." Jesus knew God's voice, and he knew that Peter's advice at that moment was not in line with God's will. He looked past Peter and saw Satan's influence. His intimate knowledge of God's voice kept him from following some well-meant, but totally wrong, advice from a beloved disciple. In the same way, we need to know Christ's voice so intimately that we will not follow the stranger's influence, no matter through what source it comes.

It won't be until we get to heaven that we finally see the Lord face to face. Right now, we hear his voice through his word and through His Spirit within us.

In the same way, our own voice is the first thing our children will hear in many situations. Perhaps, they will wake up in the morning and hear us talking. Or, maybe, they will be away at camp and hear our voice on the phone. Perhaps, they are sick and in a clinic, and they hear our voice before we reach the clinic door. We want always to speak to our children in a manner that they associate our voice with love, guidance, and reassurance. Even when we must speak firmly to them, we want to do so in a way that they know it is because we love them. We want to spend enough time with them that they know our voice intimately, and we also know their voice -- their thoughts, impressions, hurts, and delights. We also want to point our children to Jesus' voice through the Scriptures so that they are prepared to hear His call.

Our voice in our children's lives is very profound, and we should be mindful of both the words we say and the way we say them. A study of what proverbs has to say about speech is always helpful to a wife and/or mother.

Isn't it beautiful that we can hear Jesus' voice through the Bible? Doesn't that make you want to read it, memorize it, and follow the instructions in it? If you ever doubt if you are important to God, remember that Jesus invites you by name to follow Him. He knows your name, and He knows the names of your children. Our part is to believe Him. Simple faith bids us to come when He calls and to follow where He leads. (John 10:26-27).

If we know Jesus' voice now, one day we will hear Him call our name, telling us to come home. As the song says, "Won't that be a day!"


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Musings on Mothers and Isaiah 43:1-3a -- Part I

Isaiah 43:1-3 is one of the most beloved promises that God made to Israel and one that means a lot to those who believe in Jesus name. It reads
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel. Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you, For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
This verse is not specifically about motherhood. It does, however, have a lot to say to those of us who bear (or adopt) and rear children.

Next to your relationship to your God and your relationship to your husband and helping someone else become a disciple of Jesus, there are few experiences as profound in life as being a mom. It's a joy and a delight -- one of the most fulfilling gifts from the Lord. Yet, it's also an awesome responsibility.

God understands that motherhood is both wonderful and terrifying. From the moment that we find out we are pregnant or adopting to the instant that we first hold that new precious life in our arms and know God has entrusted that little soul and body to our keeping to toddler-hood to teenage years to seeing our children become adults, we go through a gamut of emotions.

I think about Mary. First, an angel appeared to her! How marvelous that must have been. The angel brought astonishing and wondrous news: Mary was to bear the Messiah -- the promised Son of God who would redeem us all (and her) from sin. How incredible! Then came the moment when some people looked at her and did not believe that she was innocently pregnant out of wedlock. Even her own fiance thought about putting her away quietly, until an angel explained the matter to him. Then, Simeon and Anna pronounced wonderful blessings for her son, yet also told her that a sword would pierce her own soul. She raised her precious boy, and the scriptures show that sometimes she grasped the significance of Jesus (John 2:4-6) and, sometimes, she didn't quite understand his mission. (Mark 3:20-21, Mark 3:31-35) . She watched her son die of crucifixion, and perhaps it was then that the sword pierced her soul. Then, how elated she must have been to see him risen!

To a lesser extent, we too have moments of sheer joy and wonder as we raise our children, as well as moments of trial. Look what God says to us as we live through the experiences of motherhood. He describes his love for his children: He formed them; He redeemed them; he called them by name. He says, "You are Mine!"

God doesn't say that his people are never going to face problems. In fact, they will pass through waters and fire. However, he promises to walk with them through the trials. He promises the faithful that the trials will perfect and not destroy their faith. (James 1:1-4).

If our children see us hold on to this and many other promises in the Bible during the joyful times and during the trying times, it will mold their faith, as well. So, for the next few posts, I'll be meditating on this verse from the point of view of a mother. Come and join me as we explore God's great love and how His love for us can overflow into our love for our children.


Next time: He calls us by name!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Health: Reducing Inflammation in the Body

As you know, one of my projects this summer is to work on my husband's and my health. We both see a need to work on this. So far, my studies are leading me to conclude that inflammation in the body is a big key to many of our health issues. (Keep in mind I'm no medical doctor). It seems that every health article Ive been reading leads back to this issue of inflammation in the body. It seems that it affects allergies, heart disease, gum disease, allergies, digestive troubles, psoriasis, Alzheimer's, immune disorders, fatigue, weight, and even wrinkles! I'm not sure if it's a cause or an effect or an agent that makes a preexisting condition worse.

By the way, if you want one quick tip to start dealing with inflammation in your body -- listen to mama and the dentist -- Floss, Floss, Floss!! This not only helps your teeth and gums, but your arteries.

Here are some articles you might like to read concerning this topic. Please note that because I refer to a site, that does not mean that I endorse everything that site stands for. When it comes to our health, we must be careful about what sources of information we listen to. Some sites want to sell you products or services. Others rely on medical information that has not yet been proven. So, read with a discerning eye. Having said that, I do think the information in these specific articles is useful.

Oprah's Doc and The Skin Doc: Inflammation and Aging

Woman to Woman: Reducing Inflammation Naturally
Reel in Inflammation
MSNBC Your Diet and Inflammation


Refresh The Bed Day....

It's allergy season, plus I'm still spring cleaning even though it's summer. I was reminded by an old post of Flylady's in my in box that it's time to do a periodic refreshening of my bed. In keeping with that mission, I'm washing the dust ruffle, mattress toppers, sheets, blankets, quilt, extra winter quilt, shams, etc. I'm fluffing the pillows in the dryer. I've sprayed the mattress with Febreeze Allergen Reducer. I will ask DH if he will mind helping me rotate the mattress tonight so that it will wear better.

Since we spend a good portion of our life sleeping and since the bedroom is also where we share happy moments with our husbands, recuperate from being tired or ill, or simply curl up with a good book at times -- it's well worth keeping our bed fresh and nice. Additionally, tending to the bed helps keep allergens down and makes for healthier sleep. And, healthier sleep makes for a healthier life.

I must confess that the one part of my bed(s) that I neglect is the dust ruffle. I can't remember the last time I washed that. So, I'm happy to tend to this little chore. After all, while we think of dust ruffles as being decorative, their purpose is actually to catch dust, and, thus, they need washing.

Since DH and I both have allergies, I wash what I can of my bedding in hot water in order to kill dust mites. In general, I prefer not to use hot water for washing, but this is one case where I view it as being necessary.

The irony of allergy/asthma season is that is when a home keeper should be most vigilant about her cleaning, vacuuming, and dusting and when this winded home keeper feels least like doing it! Here in Tennessee, we had a weekend when the air quality was extra poor, and I really felt it. After some fronts have moved through, I have more energy to tackle these important tasks.

I would love to take my mattresses outside and beat the dust out of them and let the sunlight kill any microbes, dust mites, etc. I'm not sure if that would be the good thing to do, though, given our area's continually high pollen count. I'm wondering if I'd end up catching more sneeze and wheeze producing molecules! If you live in a high allergy area like I do, I'd love it if you would let me know how you handle this.

For all my blog-o-sphere friends, I'd love to hear what you do to keep your bed and bedroom lovely and fresh.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jesus and Mission....

A few posts back, I was ruminating about mission statements. Living (and managing our home) with a clear focus in mind gives us direction for our life. It enables us to choose what is best, even when faced with a number of choices that might be acceptable or good. It helps us to walk purposefully and to get back on track quickly if life temporarily knocks us off course. It pleases our Lord.

Jesus was very clear about his mission. Every day, he was faced with temptations to lose focus, just as we are. (Hebrews 4:15). Satan tempted him to take the easy way out of the glorious goal that God had set before Him. (Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 16:22-24, Mark 15:29-31). People tried to involve him in their political schemes, which was not the battle he had come to fight. (John 6:15) The Pharisees and other religious figures constantly tested him with questions. Multitudes sought healing from him, and some of them were in line with his mission, while others were following him for selfish reasons. (John 5:26-29).

In the midst of all of that, Jesus chose everything that was best -- everything that perfectly conformed to His Father's will. He did not drift along in life, but steadily walked toward his goal. He knew when to move on, and when to stop to help someone. He didn't carry a day-timer, but his life was fruitful and obedient because he always lived with his Father's will and his mission in mind.

In John 8:29, he said, " The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Jesus knew his Father intimately, and He was one with Him. He knew God's priorities, and He was able to choose accordingly. He also knew exactly why he had come to Earth and also that He would return to the Father once his mission was completed.

In John 13:1, God gives us a beautiful portrait of how this focus manifested itself in love for the disciples: Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end...Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet."

Sometimes, we have insecurities, prideful thoughts, and fear when it comes to serving humbly. Jesus had none of these, for He knew who God was, knew who He was, knew what his purpose was, and knew he'd be going to heaven.

The topic of how Jesus lived purposefully when He was on this Earth is too large to cover in a blog post. Below are just a few statements that show how Jesus' mind was fixed on the purpose God had given him.

John 4:24: My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

Luke 19;10 "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost."

John 10:10 "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

Mark 2:17: I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Mark 1:38 "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for thsi purpose, I have come forth."

I John 2:6 says, "He who says He abides in Him ought Himself to walk just as He walked."

For the true Christian, being saved by grace and being in fellowship with Christ motivates us to walk with Him and walk as He did. It means learning from Him and taking on his heart and his mission. This keeps our life directed toward those things which are eternally important, rather than being distracted by all the cares and pleasures of the world. (Matthew 6;33, Luke 10:40-41)

I know for myself that when I let go of this focus, my walk with Christ becomes vague. I have generally good intentions, but they do not come into shape. I become, like Martha in Luke 10, distracted and encumbered.

When I do keep God's specific purposes for our lives in focus, then I bear more specific fruits of obedience. I move from having a superficial form of godliness to experiencing its power in my life.

We want to live according to Jesus purposeful example because it pleases the Lord. However, it also blesses our life. It gives meaning to our days. It helps us choose the best from a wide variety of activities. It gives us confidence and peace. It frees us from feeling burdened by the urgent.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Asthma Alert

I may be the last person with asthma in the U.S. to hear this, but when I was checking out the story about tomatoes and salmonella, I came across this:

FDA Advises Patients to Switch to HFA-Propelled Albuterol Inhalers Now
CFC-propelled inhalers no longer available as of Dec. 31, 2008

I have an Albuterol inhaler, but I use it only very rarely. I guess I'll have to find out about the news ones, as they seem to require cleaning and priming. Anyhow, I thought I'd pass this along in case you have anyone in your family with asthma.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's An Enchanting Life -- Sort of...

DH and I watched the movie Enchanting last night. As most of you know, it is a light-hearted spoof of Disney fairy tale movies, and it gets its humor from transporting cartoon characters into the real world. There's a hilarious send-up of the Disney Girl who sings a happy song and animals appear to help her clean.

Today, some people fear to expose their daughters to literature and movies which might lead a girl to wish for a Prince Charming to come along. Well, I met my Prince Charming in 1979, before some of you were even born, so I am blissfully happy in that area. However, I just cannot get animals to do my housework. I have tried singing at the cat, but she just looks at me. :)

Enjoy this snippet of the original happy working song from Snow White.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Fun with Fragrance -- G-Rated

1. Why is it that a perfume that is lovely for your best friend in December is so off when you try it on your own skin in July? Well, the aroma of a perfume depends not only on the perfume's ingredients, but on your body chemistry, your body temperature, and the season. Be sure to try a fragrance on your own skin before buying it. Also, be aware that you may need to wear a lighter scent in the summer and a somewhat heavier scent in the winter. Also, as your diet changes or you move into a different season of life, your body chemistry may change and you may want to re-consider your signature scent.
2. Try on a perfume and walk around for a while before deciding if you like it. Perfume has three "notes": top notes -- or scent molecules that evaporate quickly, middle notes -- or scents that appear just before the top notes evaporate and base notes -- which become apparent about thirty minutes after you have applied the perfume. The top notes are what gives you your initial impression of a perfume. They attract you to the scent. However, because they leave so quickly, the middle notes provide the actual heart of the perfume's scent. The base notes come in and provide richness. The middle and base notes determine how the perfume will wear on you.
3. There are many fun quizzes and methods on the Internet and in books and magazines for choosing a perfume. The quizzes are fun to take and might give you some insight into what type of perfume will appeal to you. Perhaps, you enjoy a single floral scent, such as rose, or you might enjoy a perfume that has a floral bouquet. Or, you might like citrus or fruity scents. Perhaps, chypres or green scents are your thing. Or, maybe you like scents that have a food theme -- such as vanilla. Certain personalities are attracted to certain types of perfumes: mysterious, light and feminine, sporty, etc. Again, however, the real test is when you actually apply a particular perfume and live with it for a few minutes.
4. When you apply perfume, do not rub it. This damages the molecules of the scent and ruins the effect.
5. Strive for an amount of perfume that leaves just a pleasant whiff as you pass by. Think in terms of someone next to you being able to detect your perfume. You don't want your scent to proceed a block ahead of you! Reapply as needed throughout the day. Remember, though, that your nose will become accustomed to your perfume, and you may think it has worn off though it hasn't.


Commitment to Loveliness:

Otherwise known here at the Merry Rose as "The Esther Plan" and "Operation Hubs Health."

Loveliness Goals for the week:
1) water and tend to garden
2) continue to use up lotions and perfumes -- keep skin soft and fragrant while using up excess products
3) vitamins self and hub
4) exercise
5) think of ways to provide some nice relaxing time for DH

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Fragrance in Marriage
(Note: This article is intended for married women.)

How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice! Song of Songs 4:10

Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes, your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you! Song of Songs 1:3

In the book, The Five Sense of Romantic Love, the author uses a lovely phrase:
"...a refreshing breeze of cleanliness, care, and fragrance." Isn't that a pretty thought?

Do you have special memories of a perfume used by your mother or a favorite female relative? How about a cologne used by your father? Do you remember your own first perfume? A whiff of lovely scent is one of the most powerful ways to stir memories. We have but to open a drawer where a loved one's sachet lies, and we instantly think of all the wonderful things we love about them.

Using an alluring aroma wisely can be a great way to build romantic and loving memories with your husband. (The woman in Song of Songs enjoyed her husband's fragrance as well and the same principles of cleanliness and pleasant scent apply to our dear hubs, as well. But, since this blog is for women, we'll concentrate on our part of the aura.)

If you read through Song of Songs, you get the idea that the husband and wife were careful to keep their person clean and fresh (including intimate areas), and, on top of that, they chose perfumes to delight the other spouse. This becomes extra important, I think, in hot weather, as you age, during certain seasons of womanhood, etc. Women at midlife, when hormones are fluctuating as rapidly as during puberty and hot flashes cause extra perspiration, often find that it's more challenging to stay fresh.

Here are some thoughts on using fragrance to delight our husbands:

1) Study what the Bible has to say about aromas, fragrances, etc. Note how fragrance is often used as an image to teach us about spiritual things: Christians are the aroma of Christ; the prayers of the saints come up before God like incense, etc. Also take note of how fragrance is used in its literal sense, particularly in Song of Songs. Think of what "aroma" you'd like to project, both from your heart and literally.
2) Learn the best ways to keep your lingerie dainty and clean. Tuck a sachet or an empty, open perfume bottle in your lingerie drawer. Change this as the scent fades away. Even a perfume card torn from a magazine will add fragrance to your unmentionables. Be especially careful to make sure bras are fresh.
3) Learn the best ways to keep yourself bathed and clean, particularly when it comes to our intimate hygiene. In the old days, women made use of frequent douching. Doctors discourage this now, because it can lead to infections. Discuss with your physician and make your best health decision. If you have a problem with feminine odor, it is especially important to talk with your physician. Sometimes, there are little physical concerns that need to be cleared up in order to stay fresh. Also, certain chemical changes may create odors, and your doctor can explain how to handle this if you are not already aware. Don't let embarrassment stop you from seeking medical help. Doctors generally take a very practical attitude toward the body and its various functions and are not offended when you discuss sensitive matters.
Study and make your best health decision concerning the products that are designed to help us stay fresh and clean, particularly with regard to feminine areas. You probably already have your favorite shampoo, soap, body wash, intimate products, etc., but it doesn't hurt to investigate what's new now and again.
4) What kind of scent does your husband respond to? Does he prefer a natural clean scent, a floral perfume, a spicy perfume, etc. Sometimes, what appeals to us may not be the same perfume that appeals to our husbands. We can wear what makes us feel good in certain situations but use hubby's favorite scent for special times together. Note: Your husband's tastes may change as he moves through ages and stages. So, take note. My husband recently surprised me by complimenting a perfume I had not worn in a while. He hadn't noticed it in the past, but, for some reason, it suddenly seemed very pleasant to him. So, keep current with your husband's likes.
5) With perfume, you often get what you pay for. Inexpensive scents from places like Bath and Body Works can be fun, but it's also great to have a bottle of a fine perfume on hand. Save up or ask for it as a present. It doesn't have to be the most expensive perfume ever made, just something of good quality.
6) Perfume doesn't last forever. You can prolong its life by placing it in the fridge, but only to a certain extent. Use what you have!
7) Here's a tip from the Five Sense of Love: (About the couple in Song of Songs) Fragrance was in the room and in the air all around them. Lovemaking is all about atmosphere and fragrance is a key element in setting the right mood. How is the ambiance in your bedroom? Been lighting any scented candles lately? How about the bed itself -- the sheets, the pillows, the bedspread, are they clean and fresh?"
My note: Some hubbies like candles, some don't. If your husband isn't big on them, there are other ways to scent a room. Try a perfume ring on a lamp or place a drop of perfume on a light bulb before lighting it. Spray a whiff of perfume on the sheets.
8) Perfumes and scents can be a concern for people with allergies. Be considerate about where you wear scent, especially if you use a heavier perfume. If you hubby is the one who is allergic to perfumes, all is not lost. You can concentrate on freshness and cleanliness.
9) Don't forget about the freshness and cleanliness of your mouth. In Song of Songs, both the husband and the wife found their spouse's breath to be pleasant. Attend to dental hygiene. Make regular visits to the dentist. Floss! Floss not only when you've just been to the dentist and its on your mind; make it a habit! If you need and enjoy them, keep breath mints on hand.
10) Remember, some scents leave an unpleasant taste on the body. This is not an issue except in intimate settings. Be creative about where you place scents or use scents that do have a pleasant and safe taste. You don't want to enhance one sense at the expense of another.


If you choose to accept this mission....

Ok, I've been talking about it long enough. DH and I seriously need to attend to our jars of clay so that, Lord willing, we can enter our later decades still able to serve. Already, we are facing some health issues that we need to get a grip on now, before they worsen.

I love the promise in Psalm 92:14: They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. Of course, that's referring to God's action in us. However, I do want to do my little part to be good stewards of the bodies God has given us.

DH has a very stressful job and is also busy with church, so he really needs my help if he is going to maintain good health. Right now, he is laid up with an injury, which makes exercising harder. So, my plan is to do whatever I can without nagging, pushing, etc. I call this "Operation Healthy Hubs".

Along the way, I need to shape up and spruce up, as well. So, I'm also embarking on my Esther plan. I'm taking my theme from Esther 2:12 -- for there were these days of their preparation: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women."

Now, we all know that the secret of Esther's being selected queen is that it was in God's plan. And, I'm sure that the reason she stood out to the king was because of the inner qualities prompted by her faith. But, this verse sort of inspires me to pay attention to my health and loveliness. I pray to do so without getting out of balance. I want my beauty to arise from a calm and gentle spirit and faith in God.

I also think of the woman in Song of Songs. She was pleasant and delightful for her husband. Again, there are hints of her inner character in the book. Outwardly, she was fragrant, clean, and a creative companion for her husband, as well.

So, I guess this is my way of "Fighting the Frump" as Mrs. Fussypants so valiantly encourages us to do. It's also my commitment to loveliness as Emma of Charming the Birds from the Trees inspires us to do. The main goal though is health, health, health -- if the Lord so wills.

Two happy things to report: I have been losing weight just from being on the right dose of thyroid medication. I have a family history of thyroid problems. I urge you to have that checked out if you find yourself feeling run down and if you have any other symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Also, my doctor tells me that calcium with Vitamin D is not only good for your bones, but also has been proven to ease monthly irritability as well. I've just started taking it consistently, but I'm already finding that to be true.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Mission Statement...Part I

We all know that one principle of founding and operating a commercial business is to formulate a mission statement. (Who can forget the famous scene in Jerry McGuire where Jerry gets carried away in the middle of the night and concocts a long mission statement that gets him into trouble the next day?) When properly written and used, a mission statement helps company executives and workers keep their focus on why they do what they do.

Here's how Wikipedia defines a mission statement: A mission statement is a brief statement of the purpose of a company, religious group, or organization. Companies sometimes use their mission statement as an advertising slogan, but the intention of a mission statement is to keep members and users aware of the organization's purpose.

Mission statements focus on the values, purpose, and vision of an organization. Organizations and individuals who create mission statements and keep them in the forefront of their mind will find that their statements give them direction. They won't be tempted to get sidetracked pursuing things that don't further their main objectives. They will focus on things that do bring them closer to their goal.

Many woman have created lovely mission statements for keeping their homes. Some state their mission statements for writing their blogs, as well.

I'm in the process of creating a new vision statement for that part of my life as a keeper at home. Of course, my overall missions come from the Lord. I suppose there are a number of ways the Lord phrases the plans he has for us, though, of course, every instruction of his complements every other instruction and points us in one direction. Here are a few examples of mission statements we could take from the Bible:

Matthew 28:18-20 -- And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." Matthew 6:33

"And he answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. " Luke 11:27

"Then Jesus said to them all, if anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." Matthew 16:24.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-10

Many people choose life verses or they keep a list of "anchor verses". One verse that I refer to time and time again is "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6. I keep going back to that one, because that seems to be something I consistently need to put into practice.

Of course, we want to take in the whole counsel of God and not just lift our favorite verses out. Many a person or group has erred by building their whole doctrine on isolated verses without seeing how it fits into the larger will of God as expressed in the scriptures. But, if we keep the larger context in mind, remembering and reviewing some key verses helps us stay focused on what is most important in life: loving God with all our being and loving others as ourselves.

Of course, there are verses which define our role in the home as well. Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 provide us with two of the most commonly mentioned ones.

As far as drawing up mission statements for the home, here are three I've enjoyed reading:

Like Merchant Ships My Homekeeping Mission
I'll let you visit this one yourself. It's a lovely example of a statement that is clear, focused, and represents what the author is all about.

Here's a mission from Kathy Peel's book, "The Family Manager": "I oversee a small organization -- Where hundreds of decisions are made daily, where property and resources are managed, where health and nutritional needs are determined, where finances and futures are discussed and debated, where projects are planned and events are arranged, where transportation and scheduling are critical, where team-building is a priority, where careers begin and end. I oversee a small organization: I am a Family Manager.

Here's one from a blogger named Lady Lydia:

So, what about you? What is your mission statement for your life at home. Please leave a comment or link to your home keeping mission statement.