Monday, December 31, 2012

Have a 'Holy' New Year!

Recently, I heard a Pastor teach on, "How to be a Happy and Holy Family." He said that we usually don't hear happy and holy together. Holiness is usually connected to legalism, shame, and  a list of rules that drain people-such would be a religious holiness. But a holiness that comes through the Holy Spirit is light and breathes life and joy. A home with true holiness does not have legalism. It's a holiness that is about grace, love and faithfulness. A truly holy family gives birth to happiness.

He also said that when we pursue a 'happy' life we will find ourselves doing things that lead us into sin, but when we pursue a 'Holy' life lead by the Spirit we find happiness will follow. So, for example when I am sad and want to be happy I think that a 'sweet treat' or 'comfort foods' will make me happy, but five pounds later I am more sad than when I started the eating binge and the original sadness, well, it's still there. Now, for the other times that I have been sad and  have searched for God's touch on my life, He reveals to me the truth of my wounds, heals me, shows me a new plan and amazingly, before I even notice it, happiness and peace fill my heart. I am sure many of you can name your own vice when searching for happiness: shopping, drinking, etc. but as we all know these things do not lead to happiness. True holiness leads to a happy life.

So, I declare a Holy New Year, not a Happy New year. My desire is to search after God as I never have before. I want to read the Word of God more, be in prayer more, minister to the lost and brothers and sisters in Christ more. I want a deeper holiness to enter my wife-hood and motherhood. A deeper holiness in regards to my family and friendships.  I want a holiness like I have never known. I want to touch lives and be touched. I want more of Jesus in every area of my life. I want to continue to link arms with my husband and follow God's calling on our lives. I want to walk the path that He has for us and see our children following us. I want more of Him and less of me.

I pray you too will have a holy new year. A year where you will see God touching your life. A year where you will hear God's voice, see the plan He has for you, and be so completely filled with His love that His love will break all chains of fear and set you free to love others. I pray that you will have the courage to live in the faith that God calls you to be holy and happy. Many blessings of a holy life to you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Gathering

Each year at Christmas time I watch a 1977 made for television movie called, The Gathering. To most people, my husband included, it is depressing and sad, but for me there is something so real about it, something so actually hopeful that makes me watch it again and again.

The story is about a dying father (played by Ed Asner) who pulls his family back together at Christmas time, after many years of being broken and hurting. The movie shows each grown child in their adult life explaining how much they basically hate their dad and why they should not go to the Christmas Eve 'gathering' at the 'old house.' But of course each of the four grown children do attend and when they walked through the door and saw their father coming to hug them, all their bitterness and hatred seemed to just melt away. For most of them, there was no huge confrontation. No yelling match. No debating who hurt who more. No questions asked. Just a hug and that was enough.

I've thought many times, 'Is it too far fetched? Can years of hurt be wiped away by a simple, honest, bear hug?' And I will tell you, for me, that time and time again the answer to that question has always come back as, 'Yes'.

To share openly, I have a sensitive heart and my feelings get hurt easily. So, when my husband jokes around at my expense I usually don't get the joke-I get hurt. His response when he sees me a hug just for me. It is a hug that is genuine and reassures me that he loves me. The hug not only tells me he loves me, but that he is sorry and I am safe. Magically, the hurt is gone.

Another time I remember having an argument with a dear friend. We forgave each other, but it wasn't until we hugged that I could feel just how much she loved me and the pain disappeared. I tell my children, (every day) "Say you're sorry, ...and now hug." Why? Because there is something about hugging each other that brings on the forgiveness and the healing.

I cherish the way my grandmother used to say it, "LOVE YOU, LOVE YOU, LOVE YOU!" and then she'd  squish me. She loved me and I knew it, not only because she said it in triplicate, but because of the tight hug I received.

So, what's the power in a hug? How can a hug bring healing and forgiveness? Well, I've concluded that we only hug those we love. A hug is the outward sign of the love we have for one another. I know for me I only hug those I love. I mean it. If I feel uncomfortable or shy with someone, as affectionate as a person I am, I'll just shake their hand hello, but if I love you- I give a hug. I think that hugs = love. We can say we love someone, but when we hug them I believe it's communicated much more clearly.

And what do the Scriptures say?

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (1Peter 4:7-9)

We get hurt when we think we are unloved or rejected. When we know we are loved or reminded that we are loved there is healing.  There is a safety that comes from knowing we are loved and forgiveness follows. Again, a hug communicates love and love brings forgiveness.

We know that Jesus, out of His great love, died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. When there is love there is forgiveness and there is healing.

I think one of the greatest Scriptures that speaks to this idea of hugging someone to show love and forgiveness is in, "The Parable of the Lost Son."  Here is a son who disrespectfully and unlovingly demands his inheritance from his living father. The father gives it to him and off the son goes. The son leaves his home, his town and his country. He squandered all the money on sinful living. When the money is gone and he is poor 'he comes to his senses' and decides to go home. The following is what is said about the father's response to his son coming home:

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (Luke 15:21)

The son never had a chance to ask for forgiveness. His father ran to him, hugged and kissed him. The son tried to tell his father, "I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." (Luke 15:21) But the father would hear none of it- his son had returned-he hugged him and forgiveness was waiting for him.

To encourage all of you who are 'gathering' together to celebrate Christmas, hug one another in love. And I don't mean a skimpy hug, I mean a hug-hug. A hug that lets the person know that your heart is bursting with love for them. A hug that says, "No matter what has come between us I love you dearly." A hug that says, "I'm so glad you came. I couldn't imagine Christmas without you." We are called or commissioned to love: "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:35)  Love as the father did- run up to your son, daughter, sister, brother, friend, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, in-law etc. and hug them-love them as Jesus would and allow forgiveness and healing to enter your heart and theirs.

Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is it Okay to Have Ambition?

I have heard it said, over the course of several years now, a statement that quite frankly had confused me. The statement has been, 'So-in-So has no ambition.' And what was even more confusing is that it was touted as if that was a good thing. The first time I heard it I thought, "Gosh, it's so sad that, that person has no ambition," but after hearing it several times since I have started to understand what was trying to be communicated. Simply stated to have no ambition was meant to say that the person is humble.  A person with no ambition didn't break down any doors or trick his way to the top. His notoriety came to him while he wasn't looking. He merely was doing a servant's job and was recognized. Personally, I never thought of the word 'ambition' as having anything to do with pride or trickery. My understanding of the word was merely to have a goal placed before you, something you looked forward to and possibly achieving. So, I went ahead and looked up ambition's true meaning. Webster's tells us that ambition means:
  1. an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power.
  2. the desire to achieve a particular end. 
  3. a desire for activity or exertion
Using Webster's definition, I say, ambition is an okay thing to have. The dictionary says that ambition is a "desire to achieve a particular end" and I ask you, what's wrong with that? Shouldn't we have a vision before we put our hands to something and shouldn't we have the desire to achieve it to it's end? Shouldn't we want to see the vision come into fruition? To simply say, "______ has no ambition" is really not a very clear or good message.

Now the Bible talks of  'selfish' ambition. In Philippians 2:3 it says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others." If a person has selfish ambition that's not good. Selfish ambition is the attitude of doing all you have to do, to get all you want no matter the cost it brings to others so you yourself can have fame or glory or wealth. Clearly, that is not good. To work hard for a rank or fame is not a bad thing, but it is turned bad when it is for a selfish gain only.

I guess it has bothered me to hear that phrase because honestly, I have ambition-(the good kind). I am a visionary. I see something not working right and immediately my minds finds ten different ways to fix the problem, then I want to put my hands to the task and correct it. My heart is to help, to use my God-given talents to bless others. I also thrive on work and love being challenged by it. I love to work whether it be cleaning, organizing, making lesson plans, planning a gathering, putting together a huge event or small- I just love being active. I love using my mind, my giftings, and talents to produce something. I have no desire for 'rank, fame, or power,' just a desire to capture a vision from God and help create it.

Now, I know most women do not like when Proverbs 31 is read because in it is described the most amazing wife and mother. Most of us feel like we can never achieve her greatness. And although it is a daunting list I have actually been encouraged by it. I did not grow up with a Godly, female, role-model and I believe the Proverbs 31 woman is my role-model. She is diligent. She is a planner. She is industrious. She cooks, bakes, and sews. She helps provide for her family, she has wisdom, and is not idle. AND because of all her hard work she is respected and her husband is honored. This is a woman who wants the best for her husband and children and works endlessly to achieve it. Her heart is a heart for her family. She is a woman of ambition, she works hard to achieve her goals and there is a reward for it all.

31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:31)

It is not wrong to have dreams. It is not wrong to work hard after them. It is not wrong to be rewarded for all your hard work either. But all of that can be wrong or corrupted if our heart is in the wrong place. If we are working to please others and gain approval. If we think that working is going to fill certain needs and insecurities. If we are basically working for -again- our own needs to be met.

So, I say, with a pure heart have ambition and be blessed.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Have a Hope and a Future

A few months ago I wrote an article entitled, "A Blank Horizon." During that time, I have to say, I was really sad. It was hard not knowing the future, not knowing where I was headed, where I was going, not even knowing what my goals were anymore. I guess I had thought that I generally knew my future- you know, the basics, but at that time everything seemed to be changing. I wasn't anxious about the future just sad over seeing all the things I thought I was walking toward slowly disappearing. The road I had been walking on was gone before I knew it and I was just standing there wondering where I was to go to next. It's been almost a year of waiting, and wondering, but now I'm beginning to have hope and I can see a future.

I have read, heard and seen in every Christian book store the Scripture- "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you  hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) It is a wonderful Scripture and I believe it fully, but had never had that Scripture tested in my life. Before this year I have always had a little glimpse of my future. A little idea of where I was headed-even if it was as small as the very next step I was taking, but this past year I have been standing still. Not one step. I had no path, no road, no where to place my foot next. A complete 'Blank Horizon.' I have had to lay down my dreams, my passions, my hopes for my future and wait. The Scripture says God has a plan --not 'Ellen' has a plan. The Scripture says that  it's a plan with a hope and a future--not put your hope in your plan and in the future you have for yourself. That's been a big lesson. I thought my plan and my ideas for my future were God's plan. Nope. I was terribly wrong. So, I've waited and waited. I have not hoped. I have not dreamed. I actually had to lay it all down and not even think of my future in order to have peace. (And if you know me, that was a hard thing to do).

So, what have I been doing this past year? Well, I have learned to live in the day. Just the day. I wake up, I shower, get dressed, take care of my children, homeschool and do the daily mommy and wife-y things that I've always done. It's funny just how busy I've been. I've put all my energy into my family and I have been busy. It takes alot of energy, time, and prayer to raise my children, keep a beautiful home and be attentive to my loving husband. It's been good, it's been tough, it's been sad and I've learned alot. One lesson has been to not despise the ordinary.  And like every season, I think this season is coming to a close. I'm beginning to see a future again. It's not what I thought it was going to look like, but as my daughter put it, "It's like we're on a treasure hunt! It's exciting to see what God will have for us around the next corner."

"The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave you country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1) I don't know how Abraham did it. How did he literally just go? He got his stuff, his family and started walking without even knowing where he was walking to. Amazing! Tremendous faith! Deep trust in God! He knew GOD had a plan. He knew God's  plan was a plan of prosperity and safety. A plan with hope and a future and so with faith Abram ventured out.

So, I say to the Lord, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) I'm ready to follow you where ever you lead. Whatever my future is I have hope because it's your plan, not mine.