Thursday, May 28, 2009

The wandering path of worry versus the straight path of trust...

I found this interesting thought in a longer quote on the lovely blog, very CALM: "Yet more than this, anxious care often leads to acts of sin. He who cannot calmly leave his affairs in God's hand, but will carry his own burden, is very likely to be tempted to use wrong means to help himself."

I don't know that I've ever formed this idea in such succinct words, but it truly hits home with me. I can look back over my life and see times when I took things into my own hands, rather than trustfully depending on the Lord to meet a need. This was especially true in my pre-Christian days, when I looked for happiness down some winding, dead-end roads. In my case, I did try some fruitless and faulty means to assuage worries and insecurities. God used some hard lessons learned to turn my feet toward Him.

One of my youthful follies was to worry about what people thought of me, which often led me to follow the crowd rather than to follow righteousness. Though it takes a much different and more subtle form now, I still find that I must guard my heart against such worry. It's interesting to me that Jesus says in John 5:44, "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?" Chasing the approval of people over the approval of the Lord leads to unbelief.

I see this truth that worry leads to other sins played out in God's word. One example that springs to mind is Sarah, who worried that the Lord would never send her the child he promised. She pushed Abraham into fathering a child by her maidservant, Hagar, a move which didn't turn out well. (A lack of trust never turns out well!) Likewise, Abraham worried that a king might try to kill him in order to take Sarah, and he persuaded her to tell half-truths in order to save his skin. Yet, the Lord was watching out for them all along, and had they rested in this truth, they could have avoided painful sin. Happily, these were but episodes in otherwise faithful lives, and they are known as the father and the mother of the faithful.

Worrying can take you down some twisty, winding dead end paths. Someone once advised me, "Never make a decision based on fear." It is hard to make righteous or even rational choices when your mind is divided by worry. It is easy for the anxious mind to grasp at any means of comfort or security, even if those means provide only a temporary and deceptive relief.

Trust, on the other hand, shines a light on the straight and narrow path that leads to life. One of my favorite verses says,

"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


Monday, May 25, 2009

More from the Trace...Trail up to an overlook.

More Thoughts On Beautifying America...

Is it just how I'm perceiving things, or have you noticed a judgmental spirit taking hold in America? I suppose I'm thinking about that more now, as I just studied Jesus' words about what is and what isn't proper judging. The Bible instructs us in some areas not to judge and, in other areas, to make some judgments for the purpose of discerning truth from falsehood and also to help others. So much depends on the context and the heart. Well, out of my heart, I can so easily cross the line from judging justly into the self-righteous judging that Jesus forbids.

My beloved and I were doing very well about not watching much media, but I've slipped back into having the TV on more. I've noticed how very much of the news nowadays is based exactly on news anchors and "experts" making judgments about situations. Since our culture now has news available to us 24 hours a day, the news networks have a lot of time to fill. So, in addition to just reporting the facts to us, they now employ all sorts of people to give their very definite opinions about what some person in the news should or shouldn't be doing or how a situation should or shouldn't be handled. Many news shows are now more entertainment shows centered on judging and arguing from a particular viewpoint.

Sometimes, the anchors and experts are very far removed from the situation under discussion and couldn't possibly know what a person's motives were. Nor, are they likely to possess all of the background information that is necessary to properly analyze a situation. Even some representatives of science, who are supposed to be unbiased, use studies and findings to further a particular agenda and a particular set of beliefs. They are critical of those who do not share their viewpoint.

It seems that we, as a nation, are ever fascinated with celebrities -- and many politicians and reality TV show participants and crime victims and other people find themselves in the category of celebrities today. We feel that we have a right to know and judge every detail about their public and private lives. This quickness to judge, it seems to me, extends itself into the blog-0-sphere, as well. This seems to be true whether discussing political events or celebrities or theories of government or religion or how to protect the environment or almost any issue you can think of. So many times, the line is crossed from presenting a well-reasoned line of thought into saying harsh, cruel, and profane things.

This censorious spirit is also found in general conversation, as well. I know two bright and creative young people -- neither of whom know each other -- who have each decided to reject Christianity largely because they view Christians as being judgmental and they don't want to be so. Yet, out of each of their mouths come the most vehemently negative statements about other individuals. I'm not picking on them; I'm just bemused by how easily the sins of judgmentalism and hypocrisy beset us all. Only Christ can help us overcome a critical spirit or any other sin, so rejecting Him leads us back into doing the very things we don't want to do. Romans Chapters Seven and Eight so poignantly describe the frustration of trying to live a righteous life without the power of Jesus. On our own, we all fall short of the glory of God, and we all need the blood of Jesus to redeem us and to purify us and to enable us to live lives of love and holiness.

Back to the media. Some people can handle watching a lot of news during the day, but I have found that I simply cannot. Listening to judgment laced commentary for too long tempts my own inner weakness toward judging and leaves me with an unsettled spirit. It doesn't matter whether I agree or disagree with the opinions stated; either way, it tempts me toward a fretful spirit. I personally am better off if I obtain enough news to know what's going on in the world and to make informed decisions without meditating on it all too much. It's also better if I direct my thoughts about the news toward how I can help and pray, rather than toward criticizing people whom I don't even know. I am happier and more productive if I limit my exposure to the media and the Internet and if I choose wisely those Internet sites which I will and will not visit.

Perhaps, this is one area where we can help beautify our corner of the world -- by rejecting the weeds of self-righteous judging within our own hearts and replacing it with the flowers of compassion, mercy, and true discernment. Perhaps, we can also school our words to speak the best and our ears to hear the best, as well.


Here's a Great Idea: Keeping a Kitchen Journal

I took this photo along a trial up to an overlook on the Natchez Trace on May 23. It doesn't have anything to do with today's post, but I thought I'd attach it anyway. I love all of the tiny flowers and fruits that God scatters everywhere in His world.

Back to the subject at hand: I read a post in which the author suggested keeping a notebook handy in your kitchen in order to jot down thoughts that come to you while you are working, your family's particular likes and dislikes, and any notes you want to make about recipes, etc.

This made total sense to me, as I always seem to think of things that I need to jot down while I am in the kitchen. Rather than trying to carry my calendar or notebook with me, it would be easier if I just kept a notebook in the kitchen specifically for that purpose. The only problem with that is that you do need to make sure that you transfer any pertinent "to-dos" to your calendar or master to-do list.

This subject reminds me of an idea I wish I had known as a young bride. I read about a woman who used one main cookbook. Every time she referred to a recipe in it, she jotted down a few phrases in the margin. Her notes were about such subjects as how the recipe turned out, who in her family liked it, who was there to eat the finished product, if the dish was prepared for a special occasion or holiday, any changes she made to the recipe, little things her children might have said or done that day, notes about the weather (She lived in the Colorado mountains, I think), and any other little snippets she wanted to include about the day's events. She didn't write large entries -- just a sentence or two. I'm sure some favorite recipes accumulated many little thoughts recorded in the white spaces on the page. Though I don't think this was her intention, this cookbook became a treasured diary of family happenings. After many years of using this book, she had recorded many precious memories.

Wives and mothers are busy people, and they sometimes don't have time to keep journals or elaborate scrapbooks.
But, you can usually get a few minutes in the kitchen to jot down a little note. If you don't mind writing in a favorite cookbook, this might be an easy and quick way for you to keep a home diary. Just write down one or two sentences or phrases, and be sure to date them.

What about you? Have you found some quick and easy ways to record memories? Is it important to you to record them on paper, or do you store them in your heart? Or, are you a person who prefers to live in the now, rather than to meditate on memories -- happy or otherwise. We are all different in this area. Share with us your thoughts and ideas.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Beautify America!

Way back in my childhood, Lady Bird Johnson, who was then the First Lady, embarked on a campaign to "beautify America". I'm too young to remember exactly what this entailed or how well it worked. But, I do know one thing: Mrs. Johnson loved wildflowers and had a desire to see them protected and planted so that people could enjoy them.

I was reminded of that recently when my darling husband and I took a trip to Texas, the state where we lived when we were newlyweds. While visiting the lovely town of Fredricksburg, we were every near a state park that had been named in honor of Mrs. Johnson.

Today, I decided to find out more about Mrs. Johnson's beautification program. I found this quote from Mrs. Johnson: "Ugliness is so grim. A little beauty, something that is lovely, can help create harmony that will lessen tensions."

Of course, as we know, the time in which the Johnsons were in Washington was a time of great turmoil in the country and the tensions to which she referred did need soothing. Large segments of the population enjoyed some degree of propserity and peace, at least on the surface. However, that peace was often interrupted by demonstrations against an unpopular war, a burgeoning gap between how generations saw things, a disagreement between political parties over how to do things, a growing drug problem, greed and materialism, racial strife, poverty, inflation, and high rates of crime. President Johnson came to power after the shocking assassination of JFK, and, during his term, Martin Luther King was also assassinated. Apparently, Mrs Johnson believed that conservation and beautification could improve the mental health of the nation, as well as aid what she saw as her husband's efforts to fight crime, to fight poverty, and to otherwise improve the well-being of the country.

Mrs. Johnson started with an effort to clean up Washington, as she thought that our capital district could serve as an example to other cities in the nation. The Washington clean-up program was two-fold: 1) to beautify tourist areas and, thus, create a capital city that America could be proud of and 2) to provide inspiration for those citizens who lived in decaying, crime-ridden, racially tense neighborhoods by making their surroundings clean and attractive.

The First Lady did not confine her efforts to D.C. She also tackled projects to beautify the entire country, especially along the nation's Interstate Highways. It's largely due to her efforts that we have fewer billboards along our Interstates than we might have even today and that the medians are sewn with wildflowers. Apparently, as part of her efforts, she also inspired school children to scatter wildflower seeds, training them to prize nature's beauty, as well. In her later years, Lady Bird devoted herself to preserving Texas' trees and flowers.

Lady Bird Johnson seems to have garnered tons of support for her ideas, and, while he was alive, her husband backed her efforts, as well. Did some find her ideas to be impractical? Did they wonder how ridding the nation of billboards and roadside auto graveyards, while building new benches and planting flowers could heal a nation beset by such looming problems? I don't know. I did see the title of a speech from 1969 that said, "If you really want to beautify America, feed a child." I have no idea if the speech was making a pointed comment about the Beautify America campaign or simply drawing attention to impoverished school children in need of proper nutrition.

How much did Lady Bird Johnson's work impact our nation? Did her efforts to clean up neighborhoods and highways and to conserve our nation's flora effect lasting benefits? Did it really soothe tensions and heal great hurts in our society? I don't know enough about that to make an assessment, though I do enjoy all those wildflowers that are part of her legacy to the country.

Today, we have made great progress in overcoming racism. However, we are fighting another unpopular war -- albeit one that has more support than the Vietnam Conflict did in the Johnsons' Day. Plus, we still have poverty and crime, the rates of which go up and down over time, but never go completely away. We are still a populous divided over which political solutions we think will really fix our problems. We are experiencing the fallout from the sixties' in terms of a relaxed attitude towards abortion and morality and problems that have resulted therefrom.

While I am very happy to live in our country, with our system of democratic representative government, I don't look to any government program to eradicate all the ills of a fallen world. Though the Lord does determine the times and places for the temporary governments of this world, it will be His Kingdom that lasts forever. Any real victory over the pain that results from sin and death rests with Him and His reign.

Having said all that, I do think that somewhere in the legacy of Mrs. Johnson's Beautification program, there must be some inspiration for us today.

What if each one of us embarked on our own personal campaign to beautify America -- or, rather, to beautify our little corner of it. How about beautifying our homes? Our neighborhoods? And, while we're at it -- how about beautifying the blog-o-sphere? Is it just me, or does anyone else find the snarly comments, mean language, and rude assumptions that litter the information highway to be even uglier than physical trash on physical roadsides?

I'm not necessarily thinking just of planting flowers and eliminating physical eyesores, though I do believe that lovely surroundings can be inspiring. But, what about scattering everywhere seeds of faith, kindness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness, wholesome and healing words, and loving deeds?

Of course, for me, embarking on my own personal Beautification program starts with eradicating weeds and clearing out junk in my own heart, as well as sewing good and lovely thoughts into the soil of my inner being. From there, it involves dying to my natural selfishness and consciously reaching out to others, making the most of every opportunity.

Here's to beautifying our little corners of the country and the world!


Monday, May 18, 2009

For Today...

Outside my window... sunny, with flowers and green everywhere! It's gorgeous.

I am thinking... how much fun it was to have a wee little man visit for a couple of hours, even though he didn't quite get his nap out.

From the learning rooms...God has brought home to me in a number of ways lately the importance of always learning to know Him more deeply and how to love others better.

I am thankful for... the gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure my husband gave me for Mother's Day and for the calls and thoughtful gifts from my children, as well.

From the kitchen... beans and a starch with veggies.

I am wearing... blue dress, no shoes, hair up. I really need to get those shoes on to do a proper job of house keeping, but I love to run around barefoot inside during the warm months.

I am reading... Kingdom Come -- a study of David Lipscomb and James Harding

I am hoping... to get to many tasks that need doing.

I am creating... pillow cases -- See my other blog: Project Home Economics to follow my progress -- as well as a crocheted dish strainer.

I am praying... for my loved ones, always.

Around the house... All is quiet; laundry is going.

One of my favorite things... blooming roses.

A few plans for the rest of the week... I have an unusually packed week, with some happy things, but also medical appointments, so I am praying for stamina


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. I Timothy 5:4 KJV

but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.I Timothy 5:4 NASB

It will fall upon most men and women to care for aging parents or grandparents at some time in their life. Sometimes, this will occur while an individual still has children to think about, as well. Remembering to give a little gift or card of encouragement to a caregiver to remind him or her that he or she is doing a noble work is one way we can reach out in love to others.



Monday, May 04, 2009

I was thinking about my last post, and the power of a written letter to cheer someone's life. I have heard so many stories about the power of letters to encourage, instruct, and cheer other people. I am fascinated by books of letters, such as between a notable married couple or a well-known parent to a child.

Once, many years ago, when my children were small, I was trying to figure out how I could reach out to others in addition to caring for my wonderful family. I wasn't sure how to get started. Then, I read in a church bulletin about a woman who had been shut in with illness and some health issues connected to aging for many years. Since she was not able to get out and about, she wrote someone a letter and mailed it every day. When she died, it was estimated that the number of encouraging letters she had written was in the hundreds. Some testified how much her letters had impacted them.

Well, I figured that bulletin article was an answer to my prayer. I thought about the Biblical principle that if you have a little, you will be given more and that if you are faithful in a little, you will be able to be faithful in the larger things. I could certainly write and mail letters, even if I didn't know how else to be an encouragement to others. Also, if a woman whose body was declining could write letter, surely I -- an able-bodied young mother -- could find time to write and mail letters. I could certainly do that without neglecting the charge to care for my dear husband and precious babies, too.

So, I started scouring our church's bulletins for clues about people who needed a letter of encouragement. Each week, I would write a few notes.

God was faithful in that he brought people into my life who showed me some other little ways that I, as a young wife and mother, could share my faith and also serve and encourage others. I was very grateful.

Sometimes, I get busy and forget to keep up my letter writing. However, if I do "get stuck" for ideas about putting my faith into practice, I go back in my mind to that example I read about so long ago. Over time, I have lost the original bulletin article. But, the faithful example of the women in the article -- someone I had never personally met -- has stuck with me all of these years.

In a way, sending a letter is such a small thing. It requires so little on our part. But, letters do mean so much to the recipients, and being in the practice of writing them does train our hearts to be sensitive to the needs of others -- whatever they might be. Also, training our children to write notes and letters is good for their hearts, as well.

I recently read of the letter writing ministry of a preacher from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. Some ideas from that has enlarged my view of what can be done through writing notes and letters. My daughter and daughter-in-law are both really better than I am at writing notes to people.

I've also personally known many examples of women who have been examples for me of other little ways to show kindness -- such as sharing cut flowers from your yard, baking things for others, how to speak a gracious and encouraging word to someone, etc. There are so many gracious, wonderful women around whose examples we can imitate. Tagging along with another woman when she is going to serve someone gives me an opportunity to learn, myself. Also, when someone shows me a kindness or encourages me in some way, that teaches me something, too. I remember what helped me, and I am able to pass that along to someone else. Taking note of models of kindness helps me so much when I want to grow in serving others.